National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is eyeing to send pieces of its spacesuit material to Mars using the Perseverance Rover which is set to launch early August as part of its Mars 2020 mission.
Amy Ross, an advanced spacesuit designer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, is in charge of selecting the materials that’ll be sent with the mission. She handpicked six materials for the mission – polycarbonate, Vectran, ortho-fabric, Teflon, and coated Teflon.
Scientists have a range of experiences working with the materials but they are particularly interested in how they will interact with the environment in the Red Planet.
The aforementioned samples will be examined by an instrument aboard the Perseverance Rover dubbed SHERLOC or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals. Scientists have included a helmet visor along with a piece of a meteorite from Mars in the instrument’s calibration target. This was done to make sure that the readings that will be conducted are correct and will be communicated properly to specialists back on Earth.
Lead spacesuit engineer Amy Ross has a goal: to send a spacesuit to Mars for future @NASA_Astronauts. As a first step, @NASAPersevere will carry spacesuit material samples to the Red Planet. #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/aL7VTFWSHX— NASA (@NASA) July 28, 2020
Ross shared that designing and crafting a spacesuit differs from where the astronaut instead to wear it.
NASA has vast experience in doing so with astronaut suits in the International Space Center and the Moon. But with Mars, it a different story.
“On Mars, you're farther from the Sun, and you have at least a little atmosphere to scatter the UV. But that's when the duration of exposure starts to get you,” she said.
“You have to plan on being exposed on the surface most of the time. Mars spacesuits will be more like ones we use for the Moon and less like those for the ISS. I'm trying to make the Moon suit as much like the Mars suit as possible,” Ross added.
Perseverance will mainly look for remnants of ancient life on Mars as soon as it lands on its landing site, the Jezero Crater. It will also gather data regarding the planet’s climate and geological features.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission.