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Space can seem really far away and often abstract. But NASA is giving you a chance to get up close and personal with its Mars 2020 mission by sharing a live stream of the building of its Mars rover. The agency is inviting the world to watch the rover come together in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
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Engineers can be seen assembling and testing the rover that will head to Mars next year. The silent video can be watched from the video below by clicking this link.
"There is so much happening and changing in the clean room, I come here every opportunity I get," Mars 2020 project manager John McNamee, of JPL, said in a statement.
"It is great that we can share this part of our journey to the Red Planet with the public anytime they want."
The webcam, titled "Seeing 2020," will also feature live web chat with key members of the mission's staff. To catch these interviews tune into the stream every Monday through Thursday, at 2 p.m. EDT and 7 p.m. EDT (1800 and 2300 GMT; 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. local California time).
Work in the featured room, known as High Bay 1 clean room begins at 8 a.m. PDT (11 a.m. EDT) Mon.-Fri., with most of the action revolving around the rover. Three parts of the explorer have already been tested and assembled: the back shell, descent stage and cruise stage. Observers may notice that the clean room may appear empty at times as the action shifts to other parts of the JPL facility.
Mission will look for former life on the red planet
The camera may also be turned off occasionally for maintenance or because of technical issues. The Mars 2020 mission will launch next July and land on the red planet in 2021. The rover is tasked with looking for signs of former life on the planet.
It will mainly target the area around where it lands in the Jezero Crater. A spot that scientists have identified as most likely to contain these signs of past life. The rover will cruise the area on its six-wheels making observations and collecting samples that it will eventually return to Earth, This retrieval mission has yet to be officially announced by NASA.
European rover right behind
The Mars Rover will be joined by the Rosalind Franklin, part of the European-Russian ExoMars program that will land about the same time. If Mars 2020 doesn’t sound as catchy as Opportunity or Curiosity - you are right. NASA will hold a student competition to name the rover as it has done with previous missions.