Published: Thu, November 22, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

NASA selects Jezero Crater as the landing site for Mars 2020 Rover

NASA selects Jezero Crater as the landing site for Mars 2020 Rover

NASA's Mars 2020 mission is scheduled to launch by July or August 2020 and land in Jezero Crater by February 2021.

The Mars 2020 rover is part of the Mars Exploration Program, NASA's long-term robotic exploration of the red planet. The rover which is expected to land on February 18, 2021 will search for ancient life as well as collect soil samples from the Red Planet.

Samples also will be taken to return to Earth.

"Mars is really the obvious place, after the Moon, to go and expand our presence in deep space", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's science mission directorate. "Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life".

The Jezero Crater can be found on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, an impact basin north of the equator.

The crater itself is rocky in places and filled with depressions in others which will make the landing process challenging, but NASA believes that the risk is worth the scientific reward. Scientists believe that water flowed in the 28-mile wide crater billions of years ago.

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The technology: The geologic diversity that makes Jezero such an appealing landing site also makes landing there a huge technical challenge for engineers.

Mars 2020 will use the same sky crane landing that successfully delivered NASA's unmanned Curiosity rover to a location called Gale Crater on Mars back in 2012.

There are a number of factors that NASA had to consider while choosing a landing site. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander created to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. "The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision".

Selecting a landing site this early allows the Rover drivers and science operations team to optimise their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the Rover is safely on the ground.

For NASA's InSight spacecraft, it all comes down to the final six minutes of a six-month journey to Mars.

Instead of having an analytical laboratory on board - like Curiosity has - Mars 2020 is created to look at rocks on a finer scale, seeing what biosignatures are preserved.

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