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Mars 2020 Rover to Look for Life in the Jezero Crater

As announced, NASA made public on Monday the landing site it has chosen for the Mars 2020 rover, perhaps the most important machine the agency and humankind has ever sent to the Red Planet.
NASA rendering of the 2020 rover landing in the Jezero Crater 1 photo
As per NASA, Mars’ Jezero Crater is the perfect site for the rover to touch down and begin its operations. The location was chosen from more than 60 candidate places on the planet thanks to several attributes that in NASA’s view makes it ideal for this operation.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, says Jezero Crater “offers geologically rich terrain with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology."

Jezero Crater sits on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, an impact basin north of the Martian equator. It is 28 miles wide (45 kilometers wide) and is believed to have once been home to a river Delta.

Since one of the rover’s crucial assignments is to look for signs of ancient life, a site where ancient organic molecules and other microbial life had the highest chance to be preserved is the perfect place to look.

NASA hopes to find at least five kinds of rock in the crater, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life.

The downside of the location is that it might prove to be difficult to land into. Numerous boulders and rocks, as well as cliffs and depressions, will put a lot of strain on the landing team.

But there’s a lot of time left to prepare. The Mars 2020 mission will leave Earth in July or August 2020 and will arrive on Mars in February 2021.

When on the planet, the rover will be tasked with looking for signs of life, assessing the habitability of the environment, tracking natural resources and hazards and even trying to generate oxygen.

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