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Mars 2020 Takes a Test Drive – Universe Today

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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has passed its driving test. The test was mostly a forward and backward maneuver, with a six-wheeled pirouette thrown in. It’s autonomous navigation system was also part of the test. Like a toddler’s first tentative steps, this is an important milestone.

This was a significant test for the rover. According to NASA, the rover passed the test and has earned its driver’s license. The next time it drives will be on the surface of Mars.

“Mars 2020 has earned its driver’s license.”

Rich Rieber, Lead Mobility Systems Engineer, Mars 2020 Rover

“Mars 2020 has earned its driver’s license,” said Rich Rieber, the lead mobility systems engineer for Mars 2020. “The test unambiguously proved that the rover can operate under its own weight and demonstrated many of the autonomous-navigation functions for the first time. This is a major milestone for Mars 2020.”

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Though not exactly autonomous, the 2020 rover is designed to make more of its own driving decisions than previous rovers. It has high-resolution, wide field-of-view navigation cameras, part of the group of 23 cameras it’s equipped with. That’s more than any previous rover. The rover has extra computer power that it’ll use to process images and make maps. It also has more sophisticated auto-navigation software.

<img src="https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams-1024×553.png" alt=" An image of the 2020 rover showing all of its cameras. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech” class=”wp-image-144445″ srcset=”https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams-1024×553.png 1024w, https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams-580×313.png 580w, https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams-250×135.png 250w, https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams-768×415.png 768w, https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams-1536×829.png 1536w, https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/RoverCams.png 1775w” sizes=”(max-width: 767px) 89vw, (max-width: 1000px) 54vw, (max-width: 1071px) 543px, 580px”>
<Click to Enlarge> An image of the 2020 rover showing all of its cameras. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The 2020 rover will cover a lot of ground during its projected 668 sol (one Martian year) mission to find evidence of past microbial life on Mars. It’ll land at Jezero Crater in February 2021, and to get around on the surface of Mars, it’ll rely on redesigned aluminum wheels, each one with its own motor.

Getting a rover to Mars is a long, complicated undertaking, involving a lot of testing. Here’s the 2020 rover getting probed in a clean room. The probe measures how much light reaches each part of the rover. Image Credit: By NASA/JPL-Caltech

“To fulfill the mission’s ambitious science goals, we need the Mars 2020 rover to cover a lot of ground,” said Katie Stack Morgan, Mars 2020 deputy project scientist.

The 2020 rover is designed to travel about 200 meters (650 ft) every Martian day. To put that into perspective, the record for the longest distance travelled by a rover in one day belongs to NASA’s Opportunity rover. It covered 214 meters (702 ft) in a single day. So 2020’s average day will be about equal to the longest distance ever travelled by a rover in one day.

“We can’t wait to put some red Martian dirt under its wheels.”

John McNamee, Mars 2020 Project Manager.

This latest test took place on Dec. 17th. It was a marathon 10 hour testing session that saw all of the rover’s systems working together. Not only did it drive and steer and turn in place, but it maneuvered over small ramps, to replicate some of the terrain it’ll face on Mars. Since Martian gravity is weaker than Earth’s—only about 3/8ths as strong—NASA expects the rover to perform well once it reaches its destination.

“A rover needs to rove, and Mars 2020 did that yesterday,” said John McNamee, Mars 2020 project manager. “We can’t wait to put some red Martian dirt under its wheels.”

The rover’s wheels are arranged on a pair of legs on each side of the rover, with three wheels per leg. The leg is made out of titanium, one of the lightest and strongest materials available. Each of the aluminum wheels has 48 grousers or cleats on them, which should provide superior traction on Mars’ surface. Each wheel also has its own drive engine, and each of the front and rear wheels also have steering engines, allowing the rover to turn in place.

Personnel attaching the starboard leg and wheel assembly on the 2020 rover. These are engineering models, used only in testing. The flight models will be attached prior to the mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Personnel attaching the starboard leg and wheel assembly on the 2020 rover. These are engineering models, used only in testing. The flight models will be attached prior to the mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The wheels also have titanium spokes, which are curved and provide springy support for the 2020 rover. Together, the wheels, legs and engines are called the mobility suspension. The sophisticated system allows the rover to drive over rocks that are about thigh-high on a person, or 1.5 times the wheel diameter. (78 cm; 31 inches)

A close-up of the 2020 Rover's aluminum wheels and curved, titanium spokes. Image Credit: By X-Javier - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64959274
A close-up of the 2020 Rover’s aluminum wheels and curved, titanium spokes. Image Credit: By X-Javier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64959274

The 2020 rover will land in the Jezero Crater on Mars. It’s the sight of a long-gone paleo-lake. There’s an abundance of clay minerals there, as well as a fossilized river delta created by an ancient river that flowed into the crater.

Orbital picture of the Jezero crater, showing its fossil river delta. Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS/BROWN UNIVERSITY
Orbital picture of the Jezero crater, showing its fossil river delta. Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS/BROWN UNIVERSITY

The image below shows 2020’s landing spot, as well as the landing locations of other Mars rovers and landers.

Lander and rover landing locations on Mars. Image Credit: NASA
Lander and rover landing locations on Mars. Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is building the 2020 rover, and they’ll operate it as well. The 2020 rover is part of a larger program that aims to see humans on Mars. That program includes the Artemis Program, which intends to land humans on the Moon again by 2024, including the first woman on the Moon. NASA also plans to establish a sustained human presence there by 2028, as one of the stepping stones to a crewed mission to Mars.

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Seaspan plan to expand North Van dry dock ruffles its waterfront neighbours – Vancouver Sun

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Seaspan’s plans to consolidate its ship repair business at Vancouver Drydock is running into opposition from its residential neighbours.

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Seaspan Shipbuilding is outgrowing its operations on the North Shore, but the company’s plans to expand its companion Vancouver Drydock is colliding with concerns of the residential neighbourhood that has grown up around the century-old industrial waterfront.

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Building new ships for the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy was absorbing Seaspan’s capacity to repair ships at its main shipyard at the end of Pemberton Avenue, said company spokeswoman Kris Neely.

Neely said the company has been thinking about expanding for awhile, as part of a vision to create a “multi generational business.”

“As part of that, we’re consolidating our repair and maintenance services out of Vancouver Drydock and then being able to focus on shipbuilding efforts at our Vancouver Shipyard.”

Their plan is to push Seaspan’s existing dry dock facilities on the Lower Lonsdale waterfront 40 metres further into Burrard Inlet, then ask the Port of Vancouver to extend its water lot lease 40 metres to the west in order to add three smaller dry docks.

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Seaspan submitted an application for a review of the plan to the port in April. That federal authority deemed the application complete on June 21, opening up a public comment period. That included virtual public meetings July 13 and 15, and ends July 30.

Many of the comments from residents of condo towers that face the proposed expansion have expressed opposition to allowing Seaspan’s migration west when it has space to the east of its existing docks that is already within its lease.

It isn’t just a matter of views being blocked by new facilities jutting out in front of condos, said resident Al Parsons. Residents are concerned about the impact of additional noise and pollution, including tug boats operating in the waters in front of Shipyard Commons, the bustling commercial district and public space with its waterfront trail and a playground.

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“We knew Seaspan was our neighbour when we moved in,” Parsons said. “What we didn’t know was that they were going to continue to move westward and, I think, impose themselves on the (waterfront) Spirit Trail.

“It has walkers, joggers, cyclists, there’s a playground that was built for kids, which is going to be right beside this expansion.”

Parsons said residents aren’t opposed to the idea of expansion and support an initiative that Seaspan says would create 100 jobs, but don’t like there wasn’t any consultation before the company submitted its application.

And they are pushing back against a possible westward expansion, unless Seaspan proves it cannot expand east within their existing lease.

The City of North Vancouver is working on a response to Seaspan’s proposal, but would like to see the public comment period extended and all resident and business concerns taken into consideration.

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“I understand the concerns and share many of them,” Mayor Linda Buchanan said in a statement. “This project will bring more family-supporting jobs to the community, but the quality of life of residents needs to be a priority as well.”

Neely said Seaspan did look at other options for this expansion, but siting the new dry docks on the east side of its operations would block water access to a fabrication shop on the site that builds components for new vessels at Vancouver Shipyards.

However, Parsons argued that the east side is perhaps more inconvenient for Seaspan, which would be free to use the east side of its property for other purposes if it were granted a westward expansion.

“I know the water lot is deemed industrial but, frankly, Seaspan is pushing too hard on this neighbourhood that a lot of people contribute tax dollars to support annually.”

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NASA selects SpaceX for mission to Jupiter moon Europa – Jakarta Post

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NASA on Friday said it had selected SpaceX to launch a planned voyage to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, a huge win for Elon Musk’s company as it sets its sights deeper into the solar system.

The Europa Clipper mission will launch in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the total contract worth $178 million.

The mission was previously supposed to take off on NASA’s own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, with critics calling it a “jobs program” for the state of Alabama where much of the development work is taking place.

While SLS isn’t yet operational, Falcon Heavy has deployed on both commercial and government missions since its maiden flight in 2018 when it carried Musk’s own Tesla Roadster into space.

It generates more than five million pounds of thrust (22 million Newtons) at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft.

The Europa clipper orbiter will make about 40 to 50 close passes over Europa to determine whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Its payload will include cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images and compositional maps of the surface and atmosphere, as well as radar to penetrate the ice layer to search for liquid water below.

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Memorial event in Prince Rupert harbour to draw attention to tugboat safety – Vancouver Sun

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Since 2016, there have been 350 accidents involving tugboats or barges in B.C., including 24 sinkings and two fatalities, according to data collected by the TSB.

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More than 20 boats, including ferries, fishing vessels and tugboats, are expected to take part in a memorial event in the Prince Rupert harbour this month in honour of a tugboat captain who died at sea.

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Troy Pearson lost his life on Feb. 11 when the tugboat he was captaining sank in the Gardner Canal en route from Kitimat to Kemano. Also killed was 25-year-old Charley Cragg, a Tsawwassen man who had recently moved to Terrace and was working his first shift on the boat. A third man, 19-year-old Zac Dolan, was rescued after he made it to shore.

The event is being planned for July 31 by Pearson’s widow, Judy Carlick-Pearson, who originally intended to scatter Pearson’s ashes in the harbour a few weeks after his birthday.

“Next thing you know, we had people from the coast guard saying they wanted to be here, as well as guys from the ferries, fishing boats, commercial tugs and the marine union,” she said.

Carlick-Pearson is hoping the event, which will involve the boats forming a wide circle in the harbour while eight bells sound to signal the end of the watch, will bring attention to the continuing investigation into the sinking of the tugboat Ingenika.

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Troy Pearson and wife Judy Carlick-Pearson.
Troy Pearson and wife Judy Carlick-Pearson. Photo by Submitted photo /PNG
Charley Cragg.
Charley Cragg. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

On Feb. 10 — a day on which 11 cold temperature records were broken as B.C. was hit by an Arctic outflow — Pearson, Cragg and Dolan boarded the tugboat despite a forecast of 50-knot winds. The boat, which belonged to Wainwright Marine Services, was towing a barge carrying construction supplies for a multi-year Rio Tinto tunnel project at Kemano designed to guarantee a stable supply of hydroelectric power to the company’s Kitimat aluminum smelter.

RCMP Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said that just after midnight on Feb. 11, an emergency beacon was received from a tugboat in the Gardner Canal. The RCMP vessel Inkster was dispatched from Hartley Bay and found a man dead in the water. The coast guard found a second dead man. A third person was rescued after reaching shore.

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Reached Friday, Saunderson said the RCMP’s investigation into the tugboat sinking comtinues. The Transportation Safety Board said its investigation is still underway as well, with nothing new to say at this time. Postmedia received a similar reply from both WorkSafeBC and the B.C. Coroners Service.

Many in B.C.’s marine community are hoping the four investigations could lead to improved safety regulations in the tow industry. Since 2016, there have been 350 accidents involving tugboats or barges in B.C., including 24 sinkings and two fatalities, according to data collected by the TSB.

The board has been calling on Transport Canada to make safety management systems (SMS) mandatory on all vessels, including small tugboats like the Ingenika, for almost a decade.

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SMS is an internationally recognized framework that allows companies to identify and address safety risks. It can incorporate elements such as safe operating standards, a planned maintenance program, a crew training regime and how to respond to specific emergency situations. Transport Canada already requires SMS for larger vessels.

Other stakeholders, including some B.C. tugboat companies, want to see the tug-to-tow weight ratio regulated.

There are currently no regulations governing the tug-to-tow ratio, which allows small tugs to pull large barges that may be beyond their capabilities, said Jason Woods, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 400.

“You can tow a barge full of logging equipment on a bungee cord if you want to,” he has said.

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Transport Canada has indicated it is working on a number of “new regulatory projects” that will apply to all Canadian vessels, including making SMS mandatory, with a first draft expected in the fall.

Meanwhile, Carlick-Pearson, as well as some coastal First Nations communities, are calling on authorities to raise the Ingenika from the bottom of the Gardner Canal both to prevent environmental damage and determine why the tug sank.

“Without the boat, we won’t really know what happened that night,” she said. “It could be a smoking gun.”

Carlick-Pearson has also started raising funds to start a marine training school in Prince Rupert in honour of her husband. She hopes to teach kids and families about safety on the water, as well as offer the courses needed for a career in the marine industry. Pearson had to travel to Ladner to do his training, she said.

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“It would be better to have something here, closer to home, particularly for Indigenous people who might not want to leave their community for training.”

For more information about the Pearson Marine School of Safety or the memorial event, contact judycarlick@gmail.com.

  1. A family photo of Charley Cragg. The 25-year-old man died when the tugboat he was working on sank near Kitimat in February.

    ‘He’s gone forever:’ Mother of B.C. man killed in tugboat sinking wants answers

  2. Jason Woods, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 400. The union is calling for better federal regulations to make B.C.'s tugboat industry safer.

    Tugboat tragedy raises questions about safety on B.C. coast

  3. Safety concerns have prompted many connected to B.C.'s tugboat industry to call for regulatory changes.

    Federal regulations governing tugboats not ‘up to the task’

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