Nasa asked to dream big for next rover Mars mis­sion

The Guardian Weekly - - Global Report -

US rocket en­gi­neers are be­ing urged to push their next

Mars mis­sion to the lim­its of tech­no­log­i­cal per­for­mance. Sci­en­tists have told Nasa they want the agency to “dream big” to en­sure their new ro­bot rover, sched­uled for launch in 2020, vis­its a max­i­mum num­ber of sites to in­crease chances of un­cov­er­ing signs of an­cient life on Mars. Rock sam­ples – hope­fully bear­ing fos­sils – would then be left in caches on the Mar­tian sur­face, to be col­lected sev­eral years later and re­turned to Earth in a se­ries of mis­sions cost­ing more than $10bn.

The sci­en­tific com­mu­nity says it wants to have the strong­est pos­si­ble chance of find­ing signs of an­cient Mar­tian life – hence its call for the next ro­bot rover to the red planet to visit the largest pos­si­ble num­ber of places where it can col­lect rocks, hope­fully rich in fos­sils. How­ever, it ac­knowl­edges this mis­sion will push the ro­bot ve­hi­cle to the very lim­its of its per­for­mance.

“We now think the like­li­hood of life ex­ist­ing on its sur­face is slim to non-ex­is­tent,” said Matthew Golombek from Nasa.

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