The robotic rover is set to embark on a journey in search of evidence of past life and lay the groundwork for the space agency’s mission to send humans in the future. On Friday NASA showed off the as of yet unnamed rover ahead of its delivery to the Kennedy Space Centre where its three constituent parts will be assembled ahead of the mission. The launch if all gooses planned will take place in July where it will send the rover to a dry lake bed on Mars’ surface.
Once there, the rover will search the base of the crater where scientists hope fossil life will most likely be found given the abundance of pristine sediment present.
Mars 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace said: “The trick, though, is that we’re looking for trace levels of chemicals from billions of years ago on Mars,
“Once we have a sufficient set, we’ll put them down on the ground, and another mission, which we hope to launch in 2026, will come, land on the surface, collect those samples and put them into a rocket, basically.”
As of yet sediment samples have never been returned from the planet.
The findings of the rovers mission will be crucial for future missions as they will help identify key factors in manned missions.
If successful, Mars 2020 will mark NASA’s fifth Martian rover to carry out a soft landing.
The news comes as NASA has revealed that its now decommissioned Mars rover, Opportunity, sent one last beautiful panorama shot of the alien planet to the space agency before it died.
The image represents a poignant conclusion to the rover’s mission; a detailed panorama combining the most recent tracks of its marathon journey with a glimpse of the sands it would never touch.
While most of them provide a colourful view of the landscape, the handful of black and white blocks in the corner were taken with fading energy, denying Opportunity the time it needed to capture the last of the scene in shades of green and violet.
John Callas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said: “This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery.
“To the right of centre you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance.
“Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close.
“And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”
Opportunity’s historic mission, which uncovered signs of Mars’s watery past and transformed our understanding of the Red Planet, finally came to an end after 15 years in February.
The cause was system failure precipitated by power loss during a catastrophic, planet-wide dust storm that engulfed the Mars rover last summer.
At the time, Mr Callas said: ”It’s going to be very sad to say goodbye.
“But at the same time, we’ve got to remember this has been 15 years of incredible adventure.”