In just a few years, it will settle down in the soil of the Red Planet to begin its journey.
NASA has just made a major announcement: its next Mars rover, dubbed Mars 2020, has cleared a massive hurdle that could see it speeding toward the Red Planet in just a few years.
NASA announced that it is ready to proceed with the final design and construction of Mars 2020, scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 and land on Mars in February 2021. During its time on Mars, it will search for past life on Mars and collect samples that could eventually be returned to Earth in a later mission, according to a NASA statement.
This big step in development is a big deal, becaus Mars 2020 is the first step in what could be a multi-mission campaign to return Martian rocks and soil to Earth, and would be a big milestone in NASA’s mission to understand Mars better and whether life ever existed. It is also an important step to sending humans to Mars years later.
The Mars 2020 rover will be built in a similar fashion to the Curiosity rover, which weighs about one ton and rides on six wheels with a suite of instruments for conducting scientific analysis.
The instruments on the Mars 2020 rover will be different, including the Mars In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which may demonstrate a way to produce oxygen from carbon dioxide gas to allow future astronauts to breathe the Martian atmosphere.
“The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This mission marks a significant milestone in NASA’s Journey to Mars — to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars, and to advance our goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.”