NASA Selects Martian Lake-Delta System For Landing Of Mars 2020 Rover

20 Novembre, 2018, 19:26 | Auteur: Therese Cote

With a little luck, NASA's rover could obtain samples from rocks in the region that still retain "signatures of past life".

At a recent workshop to assess the potential landing sites, members of the project science team for Mars 2020 said that an extended mission connecting Jezero to Midway might allow scientists to explore the best of both sites.

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

Forward-looking: While it remains to be seen whether or not humans will ever establish long-term colonies on Mars, that doesn't mean organizations like NASA aren't exploring the Red Planet.

Mars 2020 is scheduled to launch in July 2020.

NASA and the European Space Agency are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.

Choosing a landing site this early permits the rover drivers and science tasks group to upgrade their plans for investigating Jezero Crater once the rover is securely on the ground. But landing safely isn't a slam dunk: Scientists want to make sure the rover doesn't land in a boulder field, a sand trap or on the edge of a cliff.

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Gale Crater, with its many layers of sediment, was chosen to tell the story of how Mars transitioned from a warm, wet planet to the frigid and dusty one it is today. A separate mission, yet to be defined, would bring the rocks back to Earth.

Knowing more about the ability for life to exist on Mars in the distant past could inform us about how life evolved on Earth.

Jezero Crater has a diverse landscape that could have preserved evidence of ancient life on Mars.

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. Jezero Crater will be where NASA's yet-to-be-named rover will land on February 18, 2021, the space agency announced today.

"Because there are so many ancient rocks on the surface of Mars, this information is more accessible", said Meyer.

"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", says NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen.

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