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

Cristina Cross
November 23, 2018

In a press release, NASA announced the landing site for the upcoming Mars 2020 Rover mission.

Scientists suspect the Mars 2020 rover may be able to detect signs of microbial life, as the landforms within the crater are estimated to be around 3.6 billion years old and were likely once part of a lake-delta system.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA's next step in exploration of the Red Planet, the U.S. space agency said in a 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.

Jezero Crater sits on an ancient river delta, just north of the Martian equator on the western edge of Isidis Planitia.

While Earth's tectonics and other forces have erased most evidence of its early history, much of Mars - about one-third the size of Earth - is believed to have remained relatively static for more than 3 billion years, creating a geologic time machine for scientists.

Interplanetary probe NASA explores Mars crater Jezero - the Delta of the ancient river, full of sediment, which could have preserved signs of life.

Technically, the Rover will be nearly an exact copy of the Curiosity probe, which launched in 2012 in the Gale crater.

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Jezero Crater is 45 km in size. Scientists have considered landing previous rovers on the site, but its landscape was not ideal. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN).

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. "The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision".

The crater was selected from more than 60 candidate locations which were studied, analysed and debated by the mission team and planetary science community.

NASA's InSight spacecraft will touchdown on the surface of Mars on November 26.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. The lander was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California on May 5, 2018 and has been hurtling through space towards our closest neighbour ever since.

Nasa aimed for as flat an area as possible so the lander does not tip over and thereby kill the mission, and so the robotic arm can set the science instruments down.

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