MONROVIA, California – Now on the books is NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission, arriving at a wheels-down spot on the Red Planet in 2021. On its to-do agenda is surveying a site likely to have been habitable and poke about for signs of past Martian life. And if that’s not enough, there’s more.
This robot is also to select and hoard the most compelling samples on site for later return to Earth, even testing out prototype hardware to shore up a future human expedition to Mars, perhaps in the 2030s.
As part of the mission process, a third confab of experts on where to land the rover took place here February 8-10. It was an international tribunal of some 250 scientists and engineers.
For an overview of what took place, take a look at my new Scientific American story at:
NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover: Stepping Stone to What?