NASA announces landing site for Mars 2020 Rover

NASA In Sight Landing

NASA officially announces landing site of Mars 2020 rover, and it’s incredibly interesting

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are preparing to give extra thanks this holiday weekend when their latest mission to Mars - the InSight Mars Lander - touches down on the surface of the Red Planet on Monday afternoon.

Samples also will be taken to return to Earth.

At least five different kinds of rocks, including "clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life", are believed to lie in the crater, just north of the Martian equator, the United States space agency said.

There are a number of factors that NASA had to consider while choosing a landing site.

The rover mission is scheduled for July 2020.

Jezero Crater is thought to be the site of an ancient river delta on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator.

"The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

Mars InSight

Apart from the two missions in 2020, there are no plans for the existing orbiters yet.

The crater is made of numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms, which are wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover, in several locations, NASA explained. This is a largely nondescript area of Mars devoid of any major geological features.

Landing on Mars is incredibly hard.

The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered Mars 2020 rover is built on the same basic design as NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars' Gusev Crater for more than six years.

This mission will study the internal structure, the tectonic and seismic activity on Mars. Researchers and engineers are buckling down on all the equipment that the rover will use to carry out its activity, yet up until today, NASA still hadn't really chosen where on the Red Planet the rover would land.

And in the 2020s, NASA's next rover is likely to be joined by the European Space Agency's first rover, which is part of the European-Russian ExoMars exploration campaign. While this is not the first time a US -built spacecraft will visit Mars, the InSight would be the first to conduct underground exploration. China is planning to get in on the action with its first-ever Mars mission, also due for launch during 2020's favorable launch opportunity.

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