23 eyes explore the terrain
With a total of 23 cameras, Mars 2020 has more eyes than any other rover. The cameras will film the landing, keep a steady course, and reveal the exact contents of dust, rock, and atmosphere.
are under construction is to find out if there was ever life on Mars. Measurements carried out by previous rovers and satellites have shown that Mars was once both warmer and wetter, and now, scientists aim to find out if living organisms originated. If so, life could still exist on the planet. Unlike the old rovers, the new generation brings sophisticated equipment developed to identify the very molecules that
must stem from life. Moreover, scientists will analyse drill samples from depths of up to 2 m instead of just scratching the surface. A long series of instruments – such as raman spectrometers, which are good at searching for molecular fingerprints of organic molecules – are to analyse the rocks and research their shapes and chemical make-up in unprecedented detail. The instruments will also come closer than ever, so even the tiniest of evidence of life can be revealed. Details of rocks the size of salt grains will be studied by detectors that can reveal the exact mineral content. Data from the many sensors will tell the scientists if the rocks were formed or
180 m per hour is the top speed of any Mars rover. The record was set by the Spirit and Opportunity twins.
changed in water and whether there is the slightest of evidence of fossilized life or carboncontaining molecules coming from prehistoric or modern life.
The Mars rovers are also going to search for biosignatures, which can be observed directly by cameras. Large colonies of microorganisms could affect the way in which crumbled rock is held together in deposits at the bottom of a lake. The organisms produce unique structures such as stromatolites – fossilized mats of microbes – on Earth. Scientists hope to find evidence of similar structures in close-ups of rocks on Mars or that the rovers' sophisticated instruments can identify their chemical evidence.
Convincing evidence of life would be quite a sensation. If life originated on Mars independently of life on Earth, it probably proves that life originates as soon as there is liquid water on a world. If so, life will probably exist in countless places of the universe. In our own galaxy alone, there are billions of Earth-like planets, which could in principle include water on their surfaces. If life found its way to Mars, it probably also originated in many other places.
The continuing exploration of Mars is also to pave the way for manned missions and in the long term for a base on the planet. The question is where on Mars it would be most advantageous for humans to settle and how the resources can be used. It would be a major advantage if astronauts had easy access to water in the shape of ice, and if it were possible to split the carbon dioxide of the air on Mars and extract the oxygen.
The Martian atmosphere is made up of 96 % carbon dioxide and only 0.13 % oxygen, i.e. far from the 21 % oxygen that Earth’s atmosphere includes. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover brings an instrument, MOXIE, which is to find out, whether the thin air on Mars can be converted into oxygen, which people could breathe. The device is to have the same role as plants have on Earth, only by means of electrolysis instead of photosynthesis. Scientists hope that the device will be able to produce 10 g of oxygen per hour. That is not enough to supply a human being with oxygen, but we
In a sterile room in Denver, NASA engineers test, if InSight's solar cells open the way they are supposed to.