NASA stages for next chapter of Mars exploration with 2020 landing site

Pablo Tucker
November 22, 2018

But Jezero came out a victor as it offers promising sampling targets of at least five kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life, as revealed by NASA in a press statement. NASA assured that mission engineers have reduced the landing zone of Mars 2020 to 50 percent smaller than Curiosity's in 2012 at Gale Crater.

The 45-kilometre-wide crater has a "geologically rich terrain" that is ideal for analysing the planet's surface as well as investigating "signs of ancient habitable conditions", the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

"Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45km) crater was once home to an ancient river delta and is a prime location to have preserved ancient organic molecules and evidence of microbial life".

NASA stages for next chapter of Mars exploration with 2020 landing site

It's been many years in the making, but NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission is now in the home stretch. Out of more than 60 options, experts have chosen Jezero Crater.

NASA says the mission aims to not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions - and past microbial life - but the Rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet's surface.

There are various factors that NASA needed to consider while choosing an arrival site. "Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life".

"Mars is one of four terrestrial planets in the solar system and it actually has the best record of what was going on in the first billion years of planetary formation", said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. These samples could return to Earth in early 2030.

Forward-looking: While it remains to be seen whether or not humans will ever establish long-term colonies on Mars, that doesn't mean organizations like NASA aren't exploring the Red Planet.

"Because there are so many ancient rocks on the surface of Mars, this information is more accessible", said Meyer.

Artist concept of the Mars 2020 rover.

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