Rosalind Franklin Mars rover heads to France for environmental testing
ESA's Rosalind Franklin ExoMars 2020 Mars rover is off to France for environmental and launch testing. The robotic explorer completed 18 months of construction at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Hertfordshire, UK, and is on its way to Airbus Toulouse in the south of France, where it faces four months of tests to determine if it can stand up to conditions on the Red Planet.
Designed to seek out signs of past or present signs of life on Mars, the Rosalind Franklin is ESA's first Mars rover, so the space agency is keen to make sure its engineering is up to the job.
Now that assembly has been completed, the spacecraft will be subjected to the same vibrations that it will encounter next year when it is launched atop a Russian Proton-M rocket. It will then be transferred to an environmental chamber where it will be subject to extensive tests to ensure that it can survive and operate in the low-density Martian atmosphere as well as night temperatures as low as –120° C (–184° F) outside and –60° C (–76° F) inside the rover.
Meanwhile, ESA says that a replica rover will be installed in the assembled carrier module, descent module, and surface science platform for separate testing to simulate the conditions of launch and the eight months that the composite craft will endure on the way to Mars.
To prevent contamination of the Martian surface, and, especially, samples taken, with terrestrial microbes or organic materials, the Rosalind Franklin and the other mission components were assembled under cleanroom conditions and will be sterilized to meet international space agreement standards.
"Completing the build of the Rosalind Franklin rover under the strict cleanliness requirements, with all the science instruments onboard, is a major milestone of our ExoMars program. It is thanks to the dedication of all the teams involved that we are able to celebrate this moment today," says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration. "We’re looking forward to completing the final rounds of tests before the rover is declared flight-ready and closed inside the landing platform and descent module that will deliver it safely to the surface of Mars."
The video below is a 3D tour of the Rosalind Franklin rover.