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NASA to send nuclear powered spacecraft to Mars (hope it doesn’t crash)

spacecradt-plutonium-NASA books nuclear-certified Atlas 5 rocket for Mars 2020 rover launch, Spacefilght Now, July 25, 2016 Justin Ray CAPE CANAVERAL — America’s next Mars rover, a $2.1 billion nuclear-powered vehicle to search for evidence that life once existed there, will be launched to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020 by a powerful Atlas 5 rocket.

Jim Green, planetary science division director, revealed the selection of the United Launch Alliance vehicle at the NASA Advisory Council meeting in Cleveland this afternoon.

“It will be the Atlas 5 carrying Mars 2020 to Mars,” Green said.

ULA’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4-Heavy and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy were studied as possible launch vehicles for the intermediate-to-heavy classed payload. It was not immediately known if SpaceX submitted a bid for this launch contract.

But, currently, Atlas 5 is the only launch vehicle that holds a NASA certification for launching the nuclear batteries made of plutonium that will power the 2,000-pound rover.

The six-wheeled robot will use by a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, enabling surface operations day and night by converting heat into electricity.

Atlas 5 has successfully performed the only launches of nuclear-equipped spacecraft for NASA in recent history: New Horizons to Pluto in 2006 and the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover in 2011.

The Mars 2020 mission will search for indications of past Martian life, building upon the ongoing field geology work by the Curiosity rover that shows the planet’s early history had conditions suitable for life…….https://spaceflightnow.com/2016/07/25/nasa-books-nuclear-certified-atlas-5-rocket-for-mars-2020-rover-launch/

July 27, 2016 - Posted by | technology

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