NASA’s Mars Exploration Program has enabled robotic exploration of the Red Planet for the past 20 years. Each Mars mission is part of a continuing chain of innovation, each relying on past missions for proven technologies while contributing its own innovations to future missions. This chain allows NASA to push the boundaries of what is currently possible while still relying on proven technologies.

The next Mars robotic mission, Mars 2020, is based on NASA’s successful Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission architecture including its Curiosity rover and proven landing system. The new rover, Perseverance, will address high-priority science goals for Mars exploration including key questions about the potential for life on Mars. The mission not only seeks signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past but also will search for signs of past microbial life itself.

The mission is timed for a launch opportunity between July 17 and August 5, 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars; that is, it takes less power to travel to Mars at this time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits. It is expected to land on Mars on February 18, 2021 at the site of an ancient river delta in a lake that once filled Jezero Crater.

Read our Special Section: Mars 2020 – Perseverance to the Red Planet:


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This article first appeared in the June, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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