NASA selects ancient crater as next Mars landing site

Pat Wise
November 27, 2018

"The diversity of the ancient environment capable of fundamental discovery, the science potential of the cache samples, and the degree of confidence in the interpretation of the landing sites", he said. In a new blog post, the space agency revealed that it has selected Jezero Crater as the landing area for its six-wheeled robot. "Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a press release.

The crater was chosen after a five-year search that examined some 60 other sites on Mars.

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.

Nasa will launch the 2020 Rover in the month of July or August 2020 and it is expected to arrive by April or May 2021.

Mars 2020 rover arm sample drill illustration nasa jpl caltech PIA22111
NASA JPL-CaltechAn illustration of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover exploring the Martian surface

Nasa has vowed to send people to Mars by the 2030s, but industry experts say it could take longer - at least 25 years from now - before humans could survive on the Red Planet.

Part of this is due to the thin Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of Earth's, so there's nothing to slow down something trying to land on the surface. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. Along with the massive nearby 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.

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater delta, where the sediments contain clays and carbonates, as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 Rover mission, the U.S. space agency said.

The 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater will give the Mars 2020 mission an opportunity to study a lot of loose rock material, but water was also on NASA's mind when it picked the landing site. However, NASA has been working on a range of new technologies to improve entry, descent, and landing. However, the unit of scientific equipment Mars 2020 will carry and a module for collecting samples in a sealed capsule, which subsequently using one of the next missions to the red planet - will be delivered on the Ground.

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