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Sci-Tech

Peek inside the NASA Mars 2020 rover clean room

Go behind the scenes where NASA's next-gen Mars rover is under construction.

descentstage2020

NASA shared this look at the Mars 2020 rover descent stage system in 2018.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is down to one working rover on Mars, but Curiosity is set to welcome a new friend when the Mars 2020 rover launches to the Red Planet in mid-2020. NASA is busy building the new explorer in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and you can peek in on the process.

NASA planetary scientist Abigail Fraeman tweeted a behind-the-scenes video on Wednesday showing the activity in the clean room.

There's a lot of equipment on display. The backshell, sky crane and heat shield that will protect the rover as it heads in for a landing are all under construction in the room.

NASA released an update on the build process earlier in February, showing a closer look at the rover itself, which has its inner electronics in place, but is still waiting on its wheels and mobility system. 

The most recognizable piece of the puzzle in Fraeman's video is the descent stage part of the operation, which will help deliver the rover to the planet's surface after the heat shield pops off. You can spot it by looking for the large piece of equipment roped off in red. 

To get to the ground, the rover will use a sky crane, which NASA likens to a large crane lowering a steel beam from a skyscraper. NASA used a similar system to deliver the Curiosity rover to a soft landing on Mars in 2012.

Fraeman also shared some photos, saying "It's really starting to look rover-ish!"

After the sorrow of officially losing NASA's long-lived Opportunity rover, it's exciting to look ahead to the next NASA inhabitant of Mars. It won't be alone. ESA and Roscosmos plan to send the ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin to explore the Red Planet in 2021.