Mars 2020

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Mars 2020
Computer-Design Drawing for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover.jpg
Computer-design drawing for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover
Mission type Rover
Operator NASA / JPL
Mission duration Planned: 1 Mars year[1]
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Start of mission
Launch date July 2020 (planned)[1]
Rocket Atlas V 541[2]
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-41
Mars rover
Spacecraft component Rover
← Curiosity

Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA's Mars Exploration Program with a planned launch in 2020.[1] It will investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars, investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.[3][4]

The as-yet unnamed Mars 2020 was announced by NASA on 4 December 2012 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.[5] The rover's design is derived from the Curiosity rover, but will carry a different scientific payload.[6] Nearly 60 proposals[7][8] for rover instrumentation were evaluated and, on 31 July 2014, NASA announced the payload for the rover.[9][10]


The rover is planned for launch in 2020.[5] The Jet Propulsion Laboratory will manage the mission. The payload and science instruments for the mission were selected in July 2014 after an open competition for payloads[9] based on scientific objectives set one year earlier.[11] The mission's Science Definition Team will determine precise mission details.[12]

In May 2017, evidence of the earliest known life on land may have been found in 3.48-billion-year-old geyserite, a mineral deposit often found around hot springs and geysers, uncovered in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia.[13][14] These findings may be helpful in deciding where best to search for early signs of life on the planet Mars.[13][14]

Proposed objectives

Proposed Mars 2020 rover payload (10 June 2015)

The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program,[15] and its Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), as well as the associate administrator of science John Grunsfeld, endorsed a sample retrieval and return mission to Earth for scientific analysis.[16][17][18] Regardless, a mission requirement is that it must help prepare NASA for its long-term sample return or manned mission efforts.[4][18][19]

On 9 July 2013, the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team reiterated that the rover should look for signs of past life, collect samples for possible future return to Earth, and demonstrate technology for future human Mars exploration. The Science Definition Team proposed that the rover collect and package as many as 31 samples of rock cores and surface soil for a later mission to bring back for definitive analysis on Earth. In 2015, however, they changed the concept, planning to collect even more samples and distribute the tubes in small piles across the surface of Mars. Returning the samples to Earth would likely require two additional missions: one rover to land on Mars, gather the 2020 samples and launch them in a canister into Mars orbit; and another to collect the sample canister from Mars orbit and return it to Earth.[20] Neither of those missions is under development by NASA,[21][22] but it has been suggested that the proposed Mars 2022 orbiter may play a role in such future mission.[21][23]

In September 2013 NASA launched an Announcement of Opportunity for researchers to propose and develop the instruments needed, including a core sample cache.[24][25] The science conducted by the rover's instruments would provide the context needed to make informed decisions about whether to return the samples to Earth.[26] The chairman of the Science Definition Team stated that NASA does not presume that life ever existed on Mars, but given the recent Curiosity rover findings, past Martian life seems possible.[26]

The rover can make measurements and technology demonstrations to help designers of a human expedition understand any hazards posed by Martian dust, and will test technology to produce oxygen (O
) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO
).[27] Improved precision landing technology that enhances the scientific value of robotic missions also will be critical for eventual human exploration on the surface.[28] Based on input from the Science Definition Team, NASA defined the final objectives for the 2020 rover. Those become the basis for soliciting proposals to provide instruments for the rover's science payload in the spring 2014.[27]


Artist concept of the Mars 2020 rover (23 May 2017)
Powered Descent Stage Assembly; part of the sky crane landing system (10 June 2018)

As proposed, the rover is based on the design of Curiosity.[5] While there are differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the sky crane and heat shield) and rover chassis can essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research. This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.[29] One of the upgrades is a guidance and control technique called "Terrain Relative Navigation" to fine-tune steering in the final moments of landing.[30] The rover will have thicker, more durable wheels, with reduced width and a greater diameter than Curiosity's.[31]

A Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, left over as a backup part for Curiosity during its construction, will power the rover.[5][32]

The rover mission and launch is estimated to cost about US$2.1 billion.[21] The mission's predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory, cost US$2.5 billion in total.[5] The availability of spare parts will make the new rover somewhat more affordable. Curiosity's engineering team are also involved in the rover's design.[5][12]

In October 2016, NASA reported using the Xombie rocket to test the Lander Vision System (LVS), as part of the Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed (ADAPT) experimental technologies, for the Mars 2020 mission landing.[33]

Scientific instruments

Mars 2020 rover instruments
23 cameras
Solar powered helicopter drone as navigation aid
Proposed adaptive caching for sample return

Proposed landing sites

The following locations are the eight landing sites that were under consideration for Mars 2020[53] previous to the meeting in Pasadena, California Feb 2017.

A workshop was held on 8–10 February 2017 in Pasadena, California, to discuss these sites, with the goal of narrowing down the list to 3 sites for further consideration.[56] The selected sites are:[57]

Jezero and surrounding region 
Possible channel bringing sediment to the crater 
Jezero delta – chemical alteration by water (hi-res
Interior of Jezero; north is to the left 


In reaction to the 2012 announcement, California U.S. Representative Adam Schiff came out in support of the Mars rover mission plans, saying that "an upgraded rover with additional instrumentation and capabilities is a logical next step that builds upon now proven landing and surface operations systems."[5] Schiff also said he favored an expedited launch in 2018, which would facilitate an even greater Mars payload. Schiff said he would be working with NASA, White House administration and Congress to explore the possibility of advancing the launch date.[5]

NASA's science chief John Grunsfeld responded that while it could be possible to launch in 2018, "it would be a push." Grunsfeld said a 2018 launch would require certain science investigations be excluded from the rover and that even the 2020 launch target would be "ambitious."[5]

Space educator Bill Nye added his support for the planned mission saying, "We don't want to stop what we're doing on Mars because we're closer than ever to answering these questions: Was there life on Mars and stranger still, is there life there now in some extraordinary place that we haven't yet looked at? Mars was once very wet—it had oceans and lakes. Did life start on Mars and get flung into space and we are all descendants of Martian microbes? It's not crazy, and it's worth finding out. It's worth the cost of a cup of coffee per taxpayer every 10 years or 13 years to find out." Nye also endorsed a Mars sample-return role, saying "The amount of information you can get from a sample returned from Mars is believed to be extraordinarily fantastic and world-changing and worthy."[60]

The selection has been criticized for NASA's constant attention to Mars,[61] and neglecting other Solar System destinations in constrained budget times. Contrary to usual NASA practices, the mission was approved for flight before a Science Definition Team (SDT) had been formed to decide on the mission's purpose and goals.


Mars 2020 mission timeline (as of July 2013)

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Mission: Overview". NASA. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Ray, Justin (25 July 2016). "NASA books nuclear-certified Atlas 5 rocket for Mars 2020 rover launch". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Chang, Alicia (9 July 2013). "Panel: Next Mars rover should gather rocks, soil". Associated Press. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Schulte, Mitch (20 December 2012). "Call for Letters of Application for Membership on the Science Definition Team for the 2020 Mars Science Rover" (PDF). NASA. NNH13ZDA003L. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harwood, William (4 December 2012). "NASA announces plans for new $1.5 billion Mars rover". CNET. Retrieved 5 December 2012. Using spare parts and mission plans developed for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, the space agency says it can build and launch the rover in 2020 and stay within current budget guidelines. 
  6. ^ Amos, Jonathan (4 December 2012). "Nasa to send new rover to Mars in 2020". BBC News. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Webster, Guy; Brown, Dwayne (21 January 2014). "NASA Receives Mars 2020 Rover Instrument Proposals for Evaluation". NASA. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
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  9. ^ a b Brown, Dwayne (31 July 2014). "RELEASE 14-208 – NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload to Explore the Red Planet as Never Before". NASA. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
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  14. ^ a b Djokic, Tara; Van Kranendonk, Martin J.; Campbell, Kathleen A.; Walter, Malcolm R.; Ward, Colin R. (9 May 2017). "Earliest signs of life on land preserved in ca. 3.5 Ga hot spring deposits". Nature Communications. Bibcode:2017NatCo...815263D. doi:10.1038/ncomms15263. Retrieved 13 May 2017. 
  15. ^ Program And Missions – 2020 Mission Plans. NASA, 2015.
  16. ^ Mann, Adam (4 December 2012). "NASA Announces New Twin Rover for Curiosity Launching to Mars in 2020". Wired. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  17. ^ Leone, Dan (3 October 2012). "Mars Planning Group Endorses Sample Return". SpaceNews. 
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  23. ^ Evans, Kim (13 October 2015). "NASA Eyes Sample-Return Capability for Post-2020 Mars Orbiter". Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  24. ^ "Announcement of Opportunity: Mars 2020 Investigations" (PDF). NASA. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
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  26. ^ a b "Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  27. ^ a b Klotz, Irene (21 November 2013). "Mars 2020 Rover To Include Test Device To Tap Planet's Atmosphere for Oxygen". SpaceNews. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  28. ^ Bergin, Chris (2 September 2014). "Curiosity EDL data to provide 2020 Mars Rover with super landing skills". Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
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  30. ^ "Mars 2020 Rover: Entry, Descent, and Landing System". NASA. July 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  31. ^ Gebhardt, Chris. "Mars 2020 rover receives upgraded eyesight for tricky skycrane landing". Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  32. ^ Boyle, Alan (4 December 2012). "NASA plans 2020 Mars rover remake". Cosmic Log. NBC News. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
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External links

  • Mars 2020 website
  • Mars 2020 Science Definition Team Report at
  • Proposed 2020 Mars Rover Science Goals (July 2013) on YouTube
  • Mars 2020 Rover and Beyond News Teleconference (July 2014) on YouTube
  • The Next Mission to Mars: Mars 2020 (May 2017) on YouTube
  • Engineering for Mars: Building the Mars 2020 Mission (December 2017) on YouTube
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