NASA announces landing site for Mars 2020 Rover

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Image: NASA has announced the rover will land in the Jezero Crater.

Mars 2020 is created to land inside the crater and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis, perhaps by the later 2020s.

"The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with land forms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Nasa's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement on Monday (November 19).

The 45-kilometre-wide crater has a "geologically rich terrain" that is ideal for analysing the planet's surface as well as investigating "signs of ancient habitable conditions", the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

The rover mission is scheduled for July 2020.

The body design of Mars 2020 rover is based heavily on the Curiosity rover that arrived on Mars in August 2012 and has been exploring Gale Crater since then. It may have been collected and stored through water and sediments, former organic molecules and other indications of microbiological life in the crater.

"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionise how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life", Zurbuchen said. There are at least five different types of rock present and potentially a wide variety of minerals.

Mars InSight
NASA Picks Landing Spot for 2020 Mars Rover

Scientists have debated where to land the rover for the past four years, and whittled down their decision from more than 60 possible sites.

Jezero Crater's selection is still "dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing" according to NASA, and a final report will be given to NASA HQ towards the end of 2019.

An artist's illustration of a rover landing in Mars.

"Nothing has been more hard in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars", said Zurbuchen.

Choosing a landing site this early permits the rover drivers and science tasks group to upgrade their plans for investigating Jezero Crater once the rover is securely on the ground.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CA - MAY 03: The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket is seen with NASA's InSight spacecraft onboard, Thursday, May 3, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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