NASA picks 'coveted' landing site for Mars 2020 rover

NASA announced a landing spot for its 2020 rover on Monday, an area called the Jezero Crater, according to an announcement from NASA.

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, which is a very big basin north of the Martian equator that was formed by an asteroid impact some 3.9 billion years ago.

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator.

A fascinating new Mars frontier awaits NASA's next red planet rover. Jezero Crater will be where NASA's yet-to-be-named rover will land on February 18, 2021, the space agency announced today.

The landing site of Jezero Crater is different because of its abundant carbonate rocks and what they can hopefully reveal about early habitability on Mars, NASA said. That touchdown is due to come seven months after the mission's launch in mid-July 2020.

"Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45km) crater was once home to an ancient river delta and is a prime location to have preserved ancient organic molecules and evidence of microbial life".

Jezero Crater beat out two other top candidates to win the rover jackpot.

Instead of having an analytical laboratory on board - like Curiosity has - Mars 2020 is created to look at rocks on a finer scale, seeing what biosignatures are preserved. "Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life".

Certain features of the Earth - such as plate tectonics which roil the terrain periodically - and flowing water which washes away ancient artifacts, actually make the search to understand early microbial life easier on Mars than on Earth.

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

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.

"The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain. that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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