NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover to Discover Ancient Microbial Life

Are we alone in the universe? It's one of the biggest questions that haunt our imaginations. But now, it seems that the confusion soon to get solved with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to blast off to the red planet in July 2020. It will focus on the potential for life on Mars. It is undoubtedly going to be the most ambitious mission to Mars so far. The mission will reveal more about the planet and help in preparing for future missions involving humans.

Some Facts about the Rover

NASA scientists unveiled the vehicle on last Friday that was manufactured in a sterile factory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena near Los Angeles. The rover is as big as a family car in size with six wheels that will help it to move with ease in the rocky region. The Mars 2020 rover will have two-meter articulated arms and a drill, able to collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils. It will set aside the samples in a “cache” on the surface of Mars so that a future mission can return them on Earth.

The rover is scheduled to launch in July 2020, from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The rover is comprised of numerous sensors and equipment that will transfer data about the planet. For chemical analysis, the rover will also have lasers on board. The rover will also be carrying a miniature flying helicopter drone to study the surface of the planet. The rover has a total of 23 cameras, two microphones to capture Martian winds. The rover is also able to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere that is 96 per cent carbon dioxide.

Exploring Ancient Microbial Life

According to the deputy mission leader, Matt Wallace, "It's designed to seek the signs of life, so we're carrying a number of different instruments that will help us understand the geological and chemical context on the surface of Mars."

"What we're looking for is ancient microbial life - we're talking about billions of years ago on Mars when the planet was much more Earth-like," he added. The mission is likely to last two years. If all goes with the plan, the rover will come to life next February in an ancient river delta in a lake that filled the Jezero Crater.

According to Wallace, "We are hoping to move fairly quickly. We'd like to see the next mission launched in 2026, which will get to Mars and pick up the samples, put them into a rocket and propel that sample into orbit around Mars. The sample would then rendezvous with an orbiter, and the orbiter would bring the sample back to the Earth. Samples should reach Earth in the course of a decade or so."

However, the rover is yet to give a formal name. The JPL engineers have compared it with a Mini Cooper. The mission is scheduled for launch in July 2020 when Earth and Mars will be in a good position for landing. The Mars 2020 mission also carries hopes for an even more ambitious target - a human mission to Mars.