WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA — NASA will need the help of its manufacturing contractors as the agency steps up exploration of Mars, an agency official said.
“A strong manufacturing base in needed,” Jordan Evans, deputy director for engineering and science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA), said today following a speech. “Those relationships are important. We can push them, they can push us.”
The feedback between NASA and its manufacturing contractors intensifies the closer to a launch, Evans said.
Evans was the keynote speaker for the first day of the Eastec 2017 show in West Springfield, MA. In his speech, he described the evolution of NASA’s Mars exploration efforts.
The agency’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012. The 2000 LB (907 kg) rover achieved its scientific goals within the first seven months, Evans said. “This is bonus time,” he said Curiosity’s operations since.
Curiosity “accomplished the mission’s main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life,” according to NASA’s website. “One of Curiosity’s first major findings after landing in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site.”
NASA now is preparing Mars 2020, another rover scheduled to be launched in July 2020. It’s based on the Curiosity architecture. Evans said it may be slightly larger. “We’re trying to stay under 2100, 2200” pounds, he said. NASA is considering including a 1 kg helicopter that could scout ahead of the rover.
NASA’s goal is for humans to explore Mars. Evans said that still is decades away. “My personal guess is it will be the 2050s before we get boots on the ground on Mars,” he said.