JPL unveils efforts to explore Mars to NASA Administrator
PASADENA, Calif. — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine paid a visit to the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory today, Monday Aug. 27, 2018 and was provided a review of NASA’s efforts to explore the Red Planet.
Guided by JPL’s officials, the new head of the agency was given a tour of present and future Mars exploration missions. The importance of the work being done at JPL, as well as the possible discoveries that there are to be made, was noted by Bridenstine himself.
“My mission at JPL today is to talk about if there’s life on other planets,” Bridenstine said.
Part of that his visit included a stop by JPL’s in-situ instrumentation lab, where a full scale model of the Mars InSight lander, which is itself based on the Mars Phoenix lander spacecraft (which touched down on the Vastitas Borealis region of Mars on Nov. 2, 2008) resides. InSight is scheduled to touch down on the dusty Martian plains on Nov. 26 (2018).
The next part of the tour was, in some ways, a two-parter given that Bridenstine was taken through the Spacecraft Assembly Facility as well as the Space Simulator Chamber.
The Assembly Facility is where NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover is being prepared for its mission to the Red Planet. While the one-ton rover was impressive, the next part of the tour helped highlight one of the more innovative elements of the upcoming mission – an aircraft sent to fly the Martian skies.
A replica of a drone helicopter that is being readied to fly with the rover when it travels to Mars was on prominent display during the tour and was at the Simulator Chamber in order to test it in a “Mars-like” atmosphere.
The Mars Helicopter Team even presented Bridenstine with one of the vehicle’s blades in honor of his visit, denoting the importance of this portion of the Mars 2020 mission.
Bridenstine was nominated by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, for the role of NASA Administrator on Sept. 1, 2017. He was confirmed for the position by the U.S. Senate on April 19, 2018.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.