Credit: NASA/JPL


MONROVIA, California – The 3rd landing site workshop for the 2020 Mars Rover mission was held here, bringing some 250 researchers together to mull over and whittle away at eight candidate landing sites.

Mars via Monrovia. International group mulls over prospective landing sites for Mars 2020 rover.
Credit: Leonard David

After nearly 3 days of deliberation – and much debate and discussion – a trio of landing sites for the future rover has apparently emerged: Jezero, NE Syrtis, and a hotly contested and invested candidate – the Columbia Hills/Gusev crater.

Yet another landing site workshop is on the books to further detail these candidate locales for the Mars 2020 rover.

This artist’s rendering depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, with its robotic arm extended.

Eventually, the final go-to spot for the 2020 Red Planet robot is to be made by NASA Headquarters.

Contentious chatter

Of the three sites, the most contentious chatter involved Columbia Hills/Gusev. It’s the site where the Spirit rover cruised about, later becoming stuck in sand and died there. In May 2011, NASA ended its shout outs to the mired in sand Mars machinery.

On Mars, “Home Plate” is a ancient and eroded volcanic ash deposit about 100 yards across that lies in Gusev Crater’s Columbia Hills. At some point in the past a hot spring was active here, producing silica outcrops that appear nearly identical to the features found at the El Tatio hot springs in Chile. The silica outcrops lie next to Home Plate’s right edge, near the Spirit rover (circled).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Proponents of this return mission want to investigate and sample siliceous deposits discovered by the Spirit rover on the east side of a featured dubbed “Home Plate” as well as candidate deposits not visited by Spirit to the west and south of Home Plate.

These deposits have been compared on the basis of their morphology and mineralogy to hot spring sinter deposits known to support microbial life on Earth, and have thus been called potential biosignatures.









That’s the Spirit

As discussed earlier on Inside Outer Space, go to these stories for more background on the Columbia Hills/Gusev site:

Did the Spirit Mars Rover Find a Biosignature of Past Life?


Searching for Life on Mars: A Re-look at Spirit Rover Finding







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