Mars landing comes down to final 6 minutes of 6-month trip

21 November, 2018, 23:28 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Mars landing comes down to final 6 minutes of 6-month trip

Scientists suspect the Mars 2020 rover may be able to detect signs of microbial life, as the landforms within the crater are estimated to be around 3.6 billion years old and were likely once part of a lake-delta system.

Experts believe the 28-mile (45-kilometer) wide basin could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other signs of microbial life.

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater delta, where the sediments contain clays and carbonates, as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 Rover mission, the USA space agency said.

"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", added Mr Farley, a project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Today, the space agency published a blog post announcing that it has selected a landing zone for its upcoming 2020 rover mission. In an attempt to prevent any damage to the craft, NASA chose a "vanilla ice cream" landing site, the Elysium Planitia, which is flat and featureless. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates.

Mars landing comes down to final 6 minutes of 6-month trip

It's also worth noting that, according to NASA, the Jezero Crater mission has been a long time coming; the location wasn't picked at random. A separate mission, yet to be defined, would bring the rocks back to Earth.

'Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life'. Because Mars' atmosphere is significantly thinner than Earth's, everything will need to go right to help it land gently, something that has been hard to achieve in the past.

"Mars had conditions more similar to Earth early on - in the first billion years - so what may have been happening in our solar system that allowed life to start on this planet may also be evident on Mars itself".

Forward-looking: While it remains to be seen whether or not humans will ever establish long-term colonies on Mars, that doesn't mean organizations like NASA aren't exploring the Red Planet.

"Mars is really the obvious place, after the Moon, to go and expand our presence in deep space", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's science mission directorate.

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