NASA's New Rover Could Finally Confirm Life on Mars

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 - 1:17PM
Space
Mars
Alien Life
Yes
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 - 1:17PM
NASA's New Rover Could Finally Confirm Life on Mars
Image credit: NASA
Is there life on Mars? We may soon have an answer thanks to NASA's revolutionary new Mars 2020 rover.
 
The famous Mars Science Laboratory mission's Curiosity rover has been going strong since it first landed on the Red Planet back in August 2012, but NASA is getting ready to send a new rover, and although it looks a lot like Curiosity, it's got a skill set that might finally reveal—or forever put the kibosh on—things like signs of life, present or past, that once lived on Mars. 

Strutting out with redesigned wheels, it has an improved array of instruments, including a drill that can secure rock samples, as well as a robotic arm to grab and save such diggings, wrapping them up for a possible pick-up by future missions.
 
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, is working on all this, as well as the cruise stage that will get the new rover to Mars on a craft that will include a rocket-powered crane that will lower the rover to the Martian ground.

However, approximately 85 percent of the tech that is necessary for the mission was used by the 2012 mission, still viable and effective. "The fact that so much of the hardware has already been designed—or even already exists—is a major advantage for this mission…It saves us money, time and most of all, reduces risk," said Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.
 


Aside from its similarities, the Mars 2020 trip is also hoping to have a better chance of finding signs of ancient life. NASA's new rover will use its instruments to study land that once held flowing water over 3.5 billion years ago, seeking out ancient microbial biosignatures with an X-ray spectrometer able to lock in on items as small as a grain of salt.

It will also pack an ultraviolet laser that can spot the presence of carbon atoms and ground-penetrating radar able to peer below the surface at rock and signs of water, potentially as deep as 30 feet.
 
The Mars 2020 rover will also have some of the tools that Curiosity wields--like color cameras, zoom lenses and a laser that can vaporize rock and soil—except the new bot's tech will be upgraded. 
 
The landing site has yet to be finalized, but the candidates all represent areas deemed to possibly provide signs of ancient life, including a lakebed, possible hot springs and a place it is believed water may have chemically interacted with subterranean rock.
 
"Whether life ever existed beyond Earth is one of the grand questions humans seek to answer," Mars 2020 project scientist Ken Farley said. "What we learn from the samples collected during this mission has the potential to address whether we're alone in the universe."
 
Science
NASA
Space
Mars
Alien Life
NASA's New Rover Could Finally Confirm Life on Mars
No
Yes