NASA is set to kick off the final design and construction phases for the next Mars rover after the space agency completed the review process and development milestone for the vehicle.
The new rover, scheduled for launch to Mars in summer 2020, will work to collect soil and rock samples and probe the Red Planet’s area where scientists believe the ancient environment allowed for microbial life, NASA said Saturday.
“This mission marks a significant milestone in NASA’s Journey to Mars – to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars, and to advance our goal of sending humans to the Red Planet,” said Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate.
The rover is designed to also deposit soil and rock samples on the surface for return on a potential mission to retrieve samples.
“The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” Yoder added.
Set to reach Mars in February 2021, the rover will incorporate two science instruments to find areas for sample collection through analysis of the chemical, mineral, physical and organic characteristics of Martian rocks.