Science & Technology

Return engagement? NASA picks its three favorite landing spots for 2020 Mars rover

NASA has whittled down its selections for its subsequent Mars landing web site to three spots, together with the hills the place the area company’s Spirit rover roamed a decade in the past.

The Columbia Hills are among the many three finalists as a result of the silica deposits found there throughout Spirit’s mission recommend the positioning might have been part of an ancient hot springs.

That’s the form of place that geologists say may maintain proof of previous life, which is excessive on the scientific agenda for the rover that’s on account of be launched in 2020.

The hills in Mars’ Gusev Crater had been named in honor of the area shuttle Columbia and its astronauts, all misplaced in a catastrophic breakup that occurred a 12 months earlier than Spirit’s landing in 2004. The dual Spirit and Alternative rovers explored totally different elements of the Martian terrain for years. Spirit lastly gave up the ghost in 2010, whereas Alternative remains to be plugging alongside on the opposite aspect of the Crimson Planet.

The 2020 rover, which has but to be given its official title, is being constructed on the fundamental design of the larger and extra succesful Curiosity rover, which landed in a unique crater in 2012. It’ll be outfitted with a brand new set of devices optimized for assessing the positioning’s habitability, trying for indicators of historic Mars life, and probably blazing a path for human explorers.

One among its jobs might be to gather samples of rocks and soil and retailer them for their potential return to Earth throughout a follow-up mission. That provides to the significance of choosing the right web site.

Late final week, throughout a workshop in Monrovia, Calif., specialists narrowed down the checklist of potential websites from eight to three. Listed below are the 2 options to Columbia Hills in Gusev Crater:

The three finalist websites will endure nearer evaluation in preparation for last web site choice. Columbia Hills might be a controversial selection: Over the weekend, Nature reported that the concept of revisiting that web site acquired a low score from scientists on the workshop.

It’s more likely to take greater than a 12 months for NASA to kind out which web site is more likely to provide the largest potential scientific return, and place its guess for 2020. When the Curiosity mission went by its planning course of, Gale Crater was unveiled because the landing web site a 12 months earlier than launch.

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