Mars 2020 rover takes serious approach to evidence of life

Space Science

MYSTERY WIRE — This time, we’re really looking for evidence of life.

When the Mars 2020 rover lands on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, the chance of detecting signs of life will go up significantly. The Mars Curiosity rover has tried, but it just doesn’t have the tools.

Now, the effort shifts to the microscopic evidence and spectral analysis. Not just shiny rocks. Biosignatures deposited in layers will be examined by new technology that takes the search to a whole new level.

The rover will soon get a name with some personality soon. Mars 2020 is a label that will be replaced when the winning entry is chosen in a naming contest. The contest has closed and judging is under way. A public poll is set for January to allow people to weigh in on their favorite names. The new name will be announced in February.

Mars 2020 Rover illustration
(NASA)

Some facts about the mission:

  • The Mars Curiosity rover is still going strong in Gale Crater, so NASA will be collecting data from both rovers when the new rover arrives.
  • Mars 2020 has 23 cameras, most of them color, and two microphones.
  • Mars 2020 will use the same landing maneuver that Curiosity used: the seemingly radical “sky crane maneuver.”
  • Mars 2020 is about five inches longer than Curiosity, and heavier at 2,260 pounds, compared with Curiosity’s 1,982 pounds.
  • Mars 2020’s robotic arm has the same reach as Curiosity’s, but it weighs 99 pounds more. The extra weight includes a larger drill for collecting core samples.

Watch live as NASA’s next rover, Mars 2020, is built and tested in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California:

Live moderated chats will take place on this channel Monday through Thursday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT for 30 minutes. If you don’t see the chat at those times, try refreshing your browser. For more about the mission, visit https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020

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