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We now know where NASA's life-hunting, sample-caching Mars rover will touch down a few years from now.
The car-size Mars 2020 rover will explore the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which hosted a deep lake in the ancient past, NASA officials announced today (Nov. 19). If current schedules hold, the six-wheeled robot will launch on July 17, 2020, and touch down on Feb. 18, 2021.
Samples - Area - Mars - Ability - Life
"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life," he added.
There is no sample-retrieval mission currently on NASA's books, but the agency hopes to go grab the collected material in the late 2020s, Zurbuchen said during a news conference today. Studying such samples in the well-equipped labs here on Earth could lead to discoveries impossible for a robot to make all by itself on the Martian surface, he added.
NASA - Jezero - Crater - Mars - Part
NASA has picked Jezero Crater on Mars, part of which is shown here, as the landing site for its Mars 2020 rover. This view shows ancient water-carved deltas, fans and lake basins in the region.
The body of Mars 2020 is based heavily on NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet's Gale Crater since August 2012. But whereas Curiosity's main task involves querying Mars' past potential to host life, the new rover will seek out evidence of organisms that may have lived billions of years ago, when the Martian surface was relatively warm and wet.
Jezero - Crater - Place - Work - Zurbuchen
Jezero Crater will be a great place to do this work, Zurbuchen and other NASA officials said during today's news conference. Scientists believe an 820-foot-deep (250 meters) lake filled the crater at some point in the period from about 3.9 billion to 3.5 billion years ago. Jezero also sports a prominent river delta, where water flowing through this system deposited lots of...
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