Mars 2020 Rover

NASA is planning the next mission to Mars and the agency just announced how the new rover, that launches in 2020, will be.

An artist concept image of where seven carefully-selected instruments will be located on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The instruments will conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet as never before.  Image Credit: NASA

The Curiosity rover detected evidence that the Red Planet was once warm and flowing with drinkable water.

NASA’s next Mars rover may look a lot like Curiosity; a six-wheeled Mini Cooper-sized robot designed to assess if the planet most like Earth in the solar system ever had habitats suitable for life.

Mars 2020 Rover  2

Planning for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover envisions a basic structure that capitalizes on the design and engineering work done for the NASA rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, but with new science instruments selected through competition for accomplishing different science objectives. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The next rover NASA will send to Mars in 2020 will carry seven carefully-selected instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet.

NASA announced the selected Mars 2020 rover instruments Thursday at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. Managers made the selections out of 58 proposals received in January from researchers and engineers worldwide. Proposals received were twice the usual number submitted for instrument competitions in the recent past. This is an indicator of the extraordinary interest by the science community in the exploration of the Mars. The selected proposals have a total value of approximately $130 million for development of the instruments.

Curiosity's landing

Like Curiosity’s landing method in 2012, the Mars 2020 rover will use a similar “skycrane” to be lowered onto the Red Planet’s surface. Credit NASA

The Mars 2020 mission will be based on the design of the highly successful Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which landed almost two years ago, and currently is operating on Mars. The new rover will carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments to conduct geological assessments of the rover’s landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life.

“Today we take another important step on our journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.” While getting to and landing on Mars is hard, Curiosity was an iconic example of how our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way for humans to pioneer Mars and beyond. Mars exploration will be this generation’s legacy, and the Mars 2020 rover will be another critical step on humans’ journey to the Red Planet.”

Scientists will use the Mars 2020 rover to identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples that will be stored for potential return to Earth by a future mission. The Mars 2020 mission is responsive to the science objectives recommended by the National Research Council’s 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

“The Mars 2020 rover, with these new advanced scientific instruments, including those from our international partners, holds the promise to unlock more mysteries of Mars’ past as revealed in the geological record,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This mission will further our search for life in the universe and also offer opportunities to advance new capabilities in exploration technology.”

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