NASA has announced where it plans to land the Mars 2020 rover and dig for signs of alien life in the red planet's soil.
Jezero Crater will be where NASA's yet-to-be-named rover will land on February 18, 2021, the space agency announced today. NASA assured that mission engineers have reduced the landing zone of Mars 2020 to 50 percent smaller than Curiosity's in 2012 at Gale Crater.
"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionise how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life", he added.
"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". Scientists believe ancient organic modules could have collected and been preserved from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater as far back as 3.6 billion years ago. "A delta is extremely good at preserving bio-signatures-any evidence of life that might have existed in the lake water. or possibly things that lived in the headwaters region that were swept in by the river and deposited in the delta", project scientist Ken Farley tells the BBC. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater. It was one of more than 60 sites that NASA eyed during years of consideration.
NASA revealed that there has always been an interest to explore Jezero Crater.
The geologic diversity that makes Jezero Crater interesting to scientists also makes it a challenge for the rover's entry, descent and landing.
'Keeping in mind our ambitious goal to eventually send humans to the surface of the Moon and then Mars, I know that our incredible science and engineering team - the only in the world to have successfully landed spacecraft on the Martian surface - will do everything they can to successfully land InSight on the Red Planet'.
Inman will be at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, during InSight's landing.
The space agency will try to land its nuclear-powered robot in Jezero Crater, a giant impact near the Martian equator. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.