Credit: NASA/JPL

A fourth candidate landing site — “Midway” — has been added for evaluation by the engineering and science teams working on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission.

This informal site is midway between the Jezero delta landing site and the NE Syrtis landing ellipse. The other site under consideration is Columbia Hills, Gusev Crater, and home to Spirit, the no-longer operating NASA Mars robot.

Once again, stand by for another 7 minutes of terror as the Mars 2020 rover is lowered onto the Red Planet by the Sky Crane.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Two birds, one rover

Midway would have the same morphologic units as in NE Syrtis and would be a “relatively” short distance downhill to the Jezero site, explains John Mustard, Professor in Brown University’s Department of Earth Environmental and Planetary Sciences in Providence, Rhode Island.

“It has emerged from Mars 2020 science team members I believe brainstorming on possibly getting two birds with one rover,” Mustard told Inside Outer Space.

Final site selection

At the third landing site workshop for the Mars 2020 rover mission on Feb. 8-10, 2017, scientists narrowed down the list of potential places where NASA’s Mars 2020 rover may land. Three sites were selected to continue as landing site candidates: Columbia Hills, Jezero Crater, and NE Syrtis.

NASA Mars 2020 rover is designed to collect samples, store the specimens in tubes, then deposit the tubes on the surface for later pick-up.
Credit: NASA/ESA

Along with the Midway site, all landing spots are expected to offer acceptable risk standards for touchdown of the Mars 2020 rover.

Mars 2020 entry, descent and landing experts are currently evaluating landing site safety in support of the 4th landing site workshop this Fall, with final site selection expected in early 2019 by NASA Headquarters.

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