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NASA has decided the site for its Mars 2020 rover mission; this is Jezero Crater. The 28-mile- (45-kilometer) wide Jezero Crater was chosen as the destination for the mission, which is going to launch in July 2020, because of its potential for scientific research.
The rover will seek signs of ancient habitable conditions as well as will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface.
NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.
“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”
Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia north of the Martian equator. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life.
“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”
Landing site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability.
“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”
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