NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to land on the red planet in February 2021, and when it does, it will touch down in Jezero Crater,
the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.5 billion years ago. The
next generation rover, which will get an official name soon, will build
on the success of the robotic explorers who came before it by collecting
the first samples of Mars for a future return to Earth.
But the new rover will also lay the groundwork for future human exploration by testing new technologies.
The Mars 2020 rover, which looks nearly identical
to the Curiosity rover that landed in 2012, will begin its mission
exploring Jezero Crater. The six-wheeled rover is equipped with a suite
of instruments designed to help it look for signs of life called
NASA believes that Mars was habitable
sometime in its past. The inhospitable desert-like planet we see today
was not always the case. Mars’ once ample atmosphere eroded over time,
stripped away by solar particles, resulting in the thin atmosphere we
But so far, we haven’t been able to
detect any real signs of ancient life yet. The rover’s team thinks that
its specialized suite of instruments will change that.
The twin Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) were tasked with finding evidence of water,
and they were successful right out of the gate. The Mars Science
Laboratory (aka Curiosity) was designed to understand habitability and
if the conditions were right for life. Now, the Mars 2020 rover will
take that one step further and search for actual signs of life.