NASA chooses next Mars landing site set to ‘REVOLUTIONISE’ knowledge of planet

NASA chooses next Mars landing site set to ‘REVOLUTIONISE’ knowledge of planet

NASA chooses next Mars landing site set to ‘REVOLUTIONISE’ knowledge of planet

NASA announced Monday the landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission.

Scientists have debated where to land the rover for the past four years, and whittled down their decision from more than 60 possible sites.

"The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive", said Ken Farley.

Once settled, the solar-powered craft will spend one Martian year - two Earth years - plumbing the depths of the planet's interior for clues to how Mars took form and, by extension, how the Earth and other rocky planets came into being.

NASA said as well as its river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

Eventually, the research could be used to learn more about which types of Earth-like exoplanets may support alien life. Scientists expect Mars 2020 to yield at least five different types of rock, including the kinds of clays and carbonates that are most likely to preserve chemical biosignatures.

Mars InSight
NASA Picks Landing Spot for 2020 Mars Rover

This image of the Jezero Crater delta combines information from two instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. "But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies", he said.

An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars.

The landing is extremely challenging to get right because of the planet's thin atmosphere.

Certain features of the Earth - such as plate tectonics which roil the terrain periodically - and flowing water which washes away ancient artifacts, actually make the search to understand early microbial life easier on Mars than on Earth. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander created to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. It'll be heating up even further a week from today with the arrival of NASA's Mars InSight lander.

InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

A pair of tiny satellites that traveled with InSight, called Mars Cube One or MarCO, may ease the wait.

Related news