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Mars: The box wants to answer the biggest question

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Title of the mediaDelicate operation: The ALD drops into the body of the rifle

Is it possible? Is there life on Mars?

Since the Mariner 4 probe has made the first successful visit to the Red Planet – a flight in July 1965 – we have sent a series of missions that have given us all interesting information about the nearest neighbor on Earth – but not the answer to the only question that really matters.

So, look at the technology that can finally change the game.

This is the analytical lab drawer or ALD, a sophisticated three-in-a-box toolbox that will test the rock samples for chemical fingerprints of biology.

On Thursday, she was slightly lifted with a crane and exploded into ExoMars Rosalind Franklin, the sixth wheel, which would take it across the plane of Oxya on Mars in 2021.

The 300 kg robot, developed jointly by European and Russian space agencies, will have a drill that can dig up to 2 meters below the dusty surface of the planet.

Waste from this instrument will be passed through the ALD door, where the various mechanisms inside will crush and prepare powders that can be put into small glasses for analysis.

This will be forensic expertise examining all aspects of sample composition.

All previous rovers have circumvented the big question. In essence, they only asked whether the conditions of Mars today or in the past would be beneficial to life-if it ever existed. They did not really have the necessary equipment to find real biomarkers.

Rosalind Franklin will be different. Its 54kg ALD is specifically designed to search for these complex organic molecules that originate from life processes.

Copyright on the image
NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Image caption

The American ruvers have found that Mars was certainly inhabitable – but was it inhabited?

Integration on Thursday was slow and deliberate, understandable: ALS in many ways is a key element of Rosalind Franklin's mission.

"It's great to see that the heart of the Rover is already installed," said Sue Horn, chief of space research at the UK Space Agency.

"An analytical lab drawer is the key test site for martian samples of the river, which allows us to understand geology and potentially identify the signatures of Mars life. Rover. "

Airbus engineers already work three shifts a day to finish the queue.

Although at the moment it does not look very similar to a vehicle, virtually all components have arrived at Stevenage's factory.

They sit on shelves around the edge of a clean room in bags waiting their turn in the assembly sequence.

There are, however, one or two remarkable positions, including the British "eyes" of the Rover.

This is the camera system or PanCam that will sit on top of the mast and direct the robot to its trail.

"We've just run the delivery review board and PanCam has to come to us in the next few days," said Chris Draper, Airbus Flight Manager.

"We know everything is going to go together, it's the beauty of system engineering, every part of the queue is modeled in 3D, and everyone works with interfacing control drawings."

Copyright on the image

Image caption

Mariner 4 took the first pictures of Mars from the near landing in 1965

Stevenage's team has had a firm deadline since early August to get the ready Rosalind Franklin to the door.

He has to go to the company's Toulouse facility for a series of tests that will ensure that the design is strong enough to cope with the heavy rocket-shake caused by Mars.

Then, additional reconciliation checks are carried out in France before sending them to the launch site of the famous Baikonur Cosmos in Kazakhstan.

Take-off should happen in July / August next year. This date is still: You only go to Mars when aligned with the Earth, and the window of opportunity has a 26-month interval.

The name of the burger: Who is Rosalind Franklin?

Copyright on the image
Getty Images / ESA

Image caption

Rochellen Franklin is a joint project of Europe and Russia

In 1952, Rosalind Franklin was at King's College London (KCL), investigating the atomic alignment of DNA, using her X-ray crystallography skills to create analysis images.

One of her team photos, known as Photo 51, gave the critical insights into both Crick and Watson about building the first three-dimensional model of the two-stranded macromolecule.

This was one of the highest achievements of 20th century science that allowed researchers finally to understand how DNA stores, copies and transmits the genetic code of life.

Crick, Watson and CCC colleague Morris Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for a breakthrough.

Franklin's premature death meant she could not be considered a reward (the Nobel laureates are not awarded posthumously). However, many claim that its contribution has never been the subject of the attention it deserves, and has even been underestimated.

  • BBC – In our time: Melvin Bragg remembers the life of Rosalind Franklin

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