NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, has given the go-ahead to begin fueling the Mars 2020 rover’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG. The generator will power the rover and help keep it warm while exploring the Red Planet.
“The progression of the Mars 2020 rover project is on schedule,” said Zurbuchen. “The decision to begin fueling the MMRTG is another important milestone in keeping to our timetable for a July 2020 launch.”
Essentially a nuclear battery, an MMRTG can provide about 110 watts of electrical power to a spacecraft and its science instruments at the beginning of a mission. The excess heat from the generator can also serve to keep spacecraft systems warm in cold environments. In all, 27 past U.S. space missions have used radioisotope power – from the Viking missions on Mars to the Voyager spacecraft entering interplanetary space to, most recently, the Curiosity rover on Mars and the New Horizons spacecraft that sailed past Pluto… [More at link]