Big test coming up for tiny satellites trailing Mars lander

NASA officially announces landing site of Mars 2020 rover, and it’s incredibly interesting

NASA Picks Landing Spot for 2020 Mars Rover

Mars 2020 is created to land inside the crater and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis, perhaps by the later 2020s.

Scientists have debated where to land the rover for the past four years, and whittled down their decision from a total of 64 possible sites. The landing site "offers geologically rich terrain with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years, and could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology", says NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen, per National Geographic.

NASA officially announces landing site of Mars 2020 rover, and it’s incredibly interesting
Mars landing comes down to final 6 minutes of 6-month trip

Jezero Crater is thought to be the site of an ancient river delta on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. That touchdown is due to come seven months after the mission's launch in mid-July 2020.

The crater was chosen after a five-year search that examined some 60 other sites on Mars. But landing safely isn't a slam dunk: Scientists want to make sure the rover doesn't land in a boulder field, a sand trap or on the edge of a cliff. This is a largely nondescript area of Mars devoid of any major geological features.

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"We're really excited. There's nothing as exciting as landing on Mars".

Mars 2020 will take advantage of technological advances that have been made since Curiosity was designed - including higher-resolution imagers, chemical life-detection instruments and even a mini-helicopter.

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'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'.

The United States is the only country to have missions that survived landing on Mars. Scientists and engineers are working hard on all the hardware that the rover will use to do its job, but up until today, NASA still hadn't actually decided where on the Red Planet the rover would land.

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InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. China is planning to get in on the action with its first-ever Mars mission, also due for launch during 2020's favorable launch opportunity.

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