NASA has settled on the ideal spot to land its rover after a five-year search considering over 60 candidate locations.
This view shows ancient water-carved deltas, fans and lake basins in the region.
NASA has announced its car-sized six-wheeled robot Mars 2020 rover will be exploring the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater when it touches down in February 2021.
The word “jezero” ( /YE-zah-ro/ ) comes from Slavic and means a “lake”. The Crater is believed to have hosted a deep lake in the ancient past making it an ideal area to explore due to its substantial geological diversity and complexity.
Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of a huge impact basin – Isidis Planitia – just north of the Martian equator. The basin presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer.
The rover will use 7 different science instruments to do its various work on the Red Planet.
Its instruments include everything from high-resolution cameras, ground-penetrating radar, several different spectrometers and a weather station.
The Mars 2020 mission will also carry gear that will generate oxygen from the thin, carbon-dioxide-dominated air. NASA hopes the mission will act as a proof of concept of the tech that could aid future human exploration of the Red Planet.
Like the Curiosity Rover, the new craft will land with the aid of a rocket-powered sky crane, which will lower Mars 2020 to the surface on cables.
The mission is set to launch on July 17, 2020, and touch down on Feb. 18, 2021.
The European Space Agency and Russia also jointly plan to launch a life-hunting Mars rover in 2020.
The ExoMars rover will touch down on the plain Oxia Planum (just north of the Red Planet’s equator) but official confirmation of this landing-site isn’t expected until the middle of next year.