NASA has recently chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site after a five year search for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, during which every detail that was available with NASA of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was assessed and opinion of the mission team was taken and also of the planetary science community.
The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions – and past microbial life – but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet's surface. NASA and the European Space Agency collectively are studying future mission concepts to retrieve their samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration and help them in future spotting. NASA quoted that the landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.” Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. It is basically located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, which is a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Whereas Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater. The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so centric to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing engineers.
By: Anuja Arora