ONWARDS, TO MARS!
Could 2021 mark the year we find out if Mars was ever habitable?
The tail end of 2020 is going to be all about Mars, it seems, as not one, but two new rovers set out for the Red Planet, both aiming to land in 2021. They’ll join NASA’s Curiosity Rover and InSight lander on the surface as well as Opportunity, whose fate – at the time of writing – is uncertain following a Martian dust storm that appears to have had a nasty effect on its circuits.
NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is being built along the lines of Curiosity – and outwardly looks very similar – but has a more advanced collection of instruments and cameras. It’ll use the same rocket-powered skycrane system as Curiosity to safely get down to the surface when it lands on Mars in February 2021. Once there it will wander across the Martian soil looking for indications of past life on the planet. The rover will traverse the Red Planet, collecting and storing samples for return to Earth by a future – as yet unconfirmed – mission.
Europe meanwhile will also be heading to Mars in 2020 with its own ExoMars rover. It will be equipped with a large drill that will allow it to take samples from the soil below Mars’s harsh surface environment. It will then analyse that material with its on-board instruments; it’ll be looking for clues about whether Mars has, or once had, life on it.
Europe’s ExoMars rover will drill down