The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has already picked the date of the next Mars rover. Now the success of the future mission stands in choosing the ideal spot for the spacecraft to land. The new rover will continue the main mission of the space agency which is that of looking for signs of alien life. This is why the location needs to be the best with the most possibilities of possessing significant and revealing data. Last week, scientists already selected three landing sites that show the potential of hosting former hot springs or lakes.
A professor at the Brown University, Jack Mustard, is one member of the board that has to make an important decision. According to him, the chosen three landing sites show great potential because they are around four billion old. This is the time when scientists believe that Mars was a vivid planet with sources of water and a clement environment. The winner has to be able to offer as many data as possible about the ancient history of the red planet through perfectly preserved biosignatures. Moreover, the next mission will have an additional task which is that of collecting samples for scientists to study.
The rover will have six wheels, and it hasn’t received a name yet. Its design will have as a primary model the Curiosity rover, but it will benefit from a series of innovative updates. It will be also receive a series of tasks. First of all, it will search for signs of Martian ancient life. Afterwards, it will study the conditions of the planet that can make it a habitable place. Finally, it will analyze organic, mineral, and chemical make-up of rocks so that it can trace down biosignatures, which are alien microbes. However, its ultimate mission will be that of collecting 30 Martian samples and bring them back to Earth.
The three possible landing sites are Jezero Crater, which could have hosted an ancient river, Northeast Syrtis, a region rich in the oldest sediments on Mars, and Columbia Hills, a place that was already visited by NASA’s Spirit. This is going to be a tough decision. Mars has many eligible targets for NASA’s next mission that can prove to host a wide diversity of biosignatures and signs of ancient rivers. In the end, it will be up to the officials at the NASA Headquarters to narrow the scientists’ three recommendations of landing sites down to only one.
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