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Mars 2020

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Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA's Mars Exploration Program with a planned launch in July or August 2020.[1] It will investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars, investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.[5][6] It will cache sample containers along its route for a potential future Mars sample-return mission.[6][7][8]

Mars 2020
Computer-Design Drawing for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover.jpg
Computer-design drawing for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover
Mission typeRover
OperatorNASA / JPL
Mission durationPlanned: 1 Mars year[1]
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerJet Propulsion Laboratory
Launch massRover: 1,050 kg (2,315 lb)[2]
DimensionsRover: 3 × 2.7 × 2.2 m (9.8 × 8.9 × 7.2 ft)[2]
Power110 watts[3]
Start of mission
Launch dateNET July 2020[1]
RocketAtlas V 541[4]
Launch siteCape Canaveral SLC-41
Mars rover
Spacecraft componentRover

The as-yet unnamed Mars 2020 mission was announced by NASA on 4 December 2012 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.[9] The rover's design is derived from the Curiosity rover, and will use many components already fabricated and tested, but it will carry different scientific instruments and a core drill.[10]

In November 2018, NASA announced that Jezero crater on Mars will be the landing site for the Mars 2020 rover, which is to launch on 17 July 2020, and touch down on Mars on 18 February 2021.[11][12]


Mission overviewEdit

Artist concept of the Mars 2020 rover

The mission will seek signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, and will also search for evidence —or biosignatures— of past microbial life. The rover is planned for launch in 2020 on an Atlas V-541,[9] and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will manage the mission. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.[13][14][15][7]

The Science Definition Team proposed that the rover collect and package as many as 31 samples of rock cores and surface soil for a later mission to bring back for definitive analysis on Earth. In 2015, however, they expanded the concept, planning to collect even more samples and distribute the tubes in small piles or caches across the surface of Mars.[16]

In September 2013 NASA launched an Announcement of Opportunity for researchers to propose and develop the instruments needed, including the Sample Caching System.[17][18] The science instruments for the mission were selected in July 2014 after an open competition based on the scientific objectives set one year earlier.[19][20] The science conducted by the rover's instruments will provide the context needed for detailed analyses of the returned samples.[21] The chairman of the Science Definition Team stated that NASA does not presume that life ever existed on Mars, but given the recent Curiosity rover findings, past Martian life seems possible.[21]


The Mars 2020 rover will explore a site likely to have been habitable. It will seek signs of past life, set aside a returnable cache with the most compelling rock core and soil samples, and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars.

A key mission requirement is that it must help prepare NASA for its long-term Mars sample-return mission and crewed mission efforts.[6][7][8] The rover will make measurements and technology demonstrations to help designers of a future human expedition understand any hazards posed by Martian dust, and will test technology to produce a small amount of pure oxygen (O
) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO
).[22] Improved precision landing technology that enhances the scientific value of robotic missions also will be critical for eventual human exploration on the surface.[23] Based on input from the Science Definition Team, NASA defined the final objectives for the 2020 rover. Those become the basis for soliciting proposals to provide instruments for the rover's science payload in the spring 2014.[22]

The mission will also attempt to identify subsurface water, improve landing techniques, and characterize weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.[24]


Powered Descent Vehicle, part of the sky crane landing system
Full-size model of the rover wheels

The three major components of the Mars 2020 spacecraft are the cruise stage for travel between Earth and Mars; the Entry, Descent, and Landing System (EDLS) that includes the aeroshell, parachute, descent vehicle, and sky crane; and the rover.

The rover is based on the design of Curiosity.[9] While there are differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the sky crane and heat shield) and rover chassis can essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research. This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.[25] One of the upgrades is a guidance and control technique called "Terrain Relative Navigation" to fine-tune steering in the final moments of landing.[26] In October 2016, NASA reported using the Xombie rocket to test the Lander Vision System (LVS), as part of the Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed (ADAPT) experimental technologies, for the Mars 2020 mission landing, meant to increase the landing accuracy and avoid obstacle hazards.[27][28]

A Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), left over as a backup part for Curiosity during its construction, will power the rover.[9][29] The generator has a mass of 45 kilograms (99 lb) and uses 4.8 kilograms (11 lb) of plutonium dioxide as the source of steady supply of heat that is converted to electricity;[3] the electrical power generated is approximately 110 watts at launch with little decrease over the mission time.[3] Two lithium-ion rechargeable batteries are included to meet peak demands of rover activities when the demand temporarily exceeds the MMRTG's steady electrical output levels. The MMRTG offers a 14-year operational lifetime, and it was provided to NASA by the US Department of Energy.[3] Unlike solar panels, the MMRTG provides engineers with significant flexibility in operating the rover's instruments even at night and during dust storms, and through the winter season.[3]

Engineers redesigned the Mars 2020 rover wheels to be more robust than Curiosity's wheels, which have sustained some damage.[30] The rover will have thicker, more durable aluminium wheels, with reduced width and a greater diameter (52.5 cm, 20.7 in) than Curiosity's 50 cm (20 in) wheels.[31][32] The aluminium wheels are covered with cleats for traction and curved titanium spokes for springy support.[33] The combination of the larger instrument suite, new Sampling and Caching System, and modified wheels makes Mars 2020 heavier than its predecessor, Curiosity.[32]

The rover mission and launch are estimated to cost about US$2.1 billion.[34] The mission's predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory, cost US$2.5 billion in total.[9] The availability of spare parts make the new rover somewhat more affordable. Curiosity's engineering team are also involved in the rover's design.[9][35]

Scientific instrumentsEdit

Proposed Mars 2020 rover payload

Based on the scientific objectives, nearly 60 proposals[36][37] for rover instrumentation were evaluated and, on 31 July 2014, NASA announced the payload for the rover.[19][38]

Mars 2020 rover instruments
23 cameras
Solar powered helicopter drone to be tested as navigation aid
Proposed adaptive caching for sample return

Proposed landing sitesEdit

In May 2017, evidence of the earliest known life on land may have been found in 3.48-billion-year-old geyserite, a mineral deposit often found around hot springs and geysers, uncovered in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia.[55][56] These findings may be helpful in deciding where best to search for early signs of life on the planet Mars.[55][56] The following locations are the eight landing sites that were under consideration for Mars 2020.[57]

A workshop was held on 8–10 February 2017 in Pasadena, California, to discuss these sites, with the goal of narrowing down the list to three sites for further consideration.[60] The selected sites are:[61]

Jezero and surrounding region
Jezero crater on Mars - ancient rivers (on the left) fed the crater; overflow flooding carved the outlet canyon (on the right).
Jezero delta – chemical alteration by water

In November 2018, it was announced that Jezero crater was chosen as the planned landing site for Mars 2020 rover.[11][12]

Proposed sample-returnEdit

Sample-return mission concept of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV)

A key mission requirement for this rover is that it must help prepare NASA for its Mars sample-return mission (MSR) campaign,[34][64][65] which is needed before any crewed mission takes place.[6][7][8] Such effort would require three additional vehicles: an orbiter, a fetch rover, and a Mars ascent vehicle (MAV).

Dozens of samples would be collected and cached by the Mars 2020 rover, and would be left on the surface of Mars for possible later retrieval.[65] A "fetch rover" would retrieve the sample caches and deliver them to a Mars ascent vehicle (MAV). In July 2018 NASA contracted Airbus to produce a "fetch rover" concept.[66] The MAV would launch from Mars and enter a 500 km orbit and rendezvous with a new Mars orbiter.[65] The sample container would be transferred to an Earth entry vehicle (EEV) which would bring it to Earth, enter the atmosphere under a parachute and hard-land for retrieval and analyses in specially designed safe laboratories.[64][65]

Mission timelineEdit

Mars 2020 mission timeline (as of July 2013)
Acidalia PlanitiaAcidalia PlanitiaAlba MonsAmazonis PlanitiaAonia TerraArabia TerraArcadia PlanitiaArcadia PlanitiaArgyre PlanitiaElysium MonsElysium PlanitiaHellas PlanitiaHesperia PlanumIsidis PlanitiaLucas PlanumLyot CraterNoachis TerraOlympus MonsPromethei TerraRudaux CraterSolis PlanumTempe TerraTerra CimmeriaTerra SabaeaTerra SirenumTharsis MontesUtopia PlanitiaValles MarinerisVastitas BorealisVastitas Borealis 
 Interactive imagemap of the global topography of Mars, overlain with locations of Mars landers and rovers
Hover your mouse to see the names of over 25 prominent geographic features, and click to link to them. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations, based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor. Whites and browns indicate the highest elevations (+12 to +8 km); followed by reds and pinks (+3 to +8 km); yellow is 0 km; greens and blues are lower elevation (down to −8 km). Axes are latitude and longitude; Poles are not shown.

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit