Science

Mars 2020 Mission: NASA Agrees On Three Possible Digging Sites

By Charles Omedo , Feb 13, 2017 02:43 AM EST
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NASA is getting ready to deploy a rover to Mars in 2020, and three possible sites have been agreed upon for the rover to dig after landing on the red planet - landing sites that may have once supported life in some forms. The three chosen sites are Northeast Syrtis, Jezero crater and Columbia Hills.

Although space scientists at a recent workshop in California shortlisted the three possible landing sites, the final choice will be picked between 2018 to 2019 while the final journey to Mars will be made in 2020. The participants at the workshop were able to shortlist the three possible landing sites after consulting data and space images earlier transmitted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Engadget reports.

Space scientists vote for a choice of Mars landing sites

Most of the voters chose Jezero crater because it evidently linked to a body of water in the past, suggesting the idea place to begin searching for life in space. The second highest number of votes went to Northeast Syrtis since it possibly had hot water flowing underneath in centuries past; and the third number of votes was given to Columbia Hills because the Mars rover, Spirit, had once navigated its plains.

The Spirit rover discovered silica rocks that scientists believe look like hydrothermal deposits on Earth, but it is not clear if the given rock samples are indicative of past life on the red planet. Spirit is not equipped to provide this information.

Mars 2020 mission will be launched aboard the Atlas V 541 rocket

An unmanned mission, Yahoo reports that the planned Mars 2020 project is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program and billed to take off in July 2020. The rover will be deployed from aboard the Atlas V 541 rocket which will be launched from the Space Launch Complex in Florida.

The main function of the Mars rover is to find evidence of life on the red planet via analysis of geological samples, and to determine the future possibility of human arrival on Mars in the face of space hazards. The samples the Mars 2020 rover will excavate cannot be brought back to Earth by the rover since it will be abandoned in space, but NASA scientists might have to deploy another rover to retrieve the samples for thorough analysis on Earth.

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