In 2020, sometime from July 17th to August 5th during the rover’s launch window, NASA will send a rover to Mars to try to answer a question being asked for over a century: was there life on Mars? The objective of the Mars 2020 Mission is to search for signs of previous microbial life as well as signs of previous “habitable conditions.” Additionally, the goal is to demonstrate new technology that could show the potential of “human expeditions to Mars.” Such methods used to test this potential is the rover’s ability produce oxygen using the Martian atmosphere, search for sources of water, identify the living conditions to prepare for astronauts, and improve landing technology.
The Mars 2020 rover is based on NASA’s Curiosity rover, which demonstrated the ability to land heavy rovers on Mars and demonstrated surface mobility for sample collections. To improve upon this design, the 2020 rover is carrying a drill for coring samples rather than scooping rocks or soil from the surface. This “depot caching” strategy demonstrates “gathering, storing, and preserving” capabilities. These samples will eventually be sent back to Earth on a future mission for “intensive laboratory analysis” which will allow scientists to identify “past environments capable of supporting microbial life” and rocks with signs of previous life. Additionally, the new rover has technology to extract oxygen from Mars’ 96% carbon dioxide atmosphere, which will be used to demonstrate human exploration potential to improve designs for “life support, transportation, and other important systems for living and working on Mars.”
The Mars 2020 Mission is very important for future space exploration on Mars and other planets. As technology advances, scientists and engineers are eager to send more astronauts into space in search of life to continue answering questions about the history of our solar system and the universe. Technology will continue to develop, and the Mars 2020 Mission is the next step to demonstrate our ability to make new, ground-breaking discoveries.
Below is an interesting overview of the Mars 2020 Mission: