Mars Rover Instruments Will Have NASA Seeking Life In Space For 2020 Rover Mission

Patrick Frye

The 2020 Mars rover project has NASA trying to build a new rover customized with instruments designed to look for life in space. Now they are trying to determine an exact location for the 2020 Mars rover to set down on the red planet.

In a related report by The Inquisitr, the International Space Station already found life in space when the Russian cosmonauts were cleaning the external surface of the ISS. The discovery has scientists speculating about how the creature got there in the first place.

According to Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for the Mars program, the 2020 Mars rover will drill into the dirt in order to create sealed samples that will eventually be sent back to Earth for analysis.

"[The] 2020 [Mars rover] has the overarching moniker of seeking the signs of life, so the of the science community is: Where would be the best place on Mars where evidence of life might have been preserved. That kind of sets the overall tone."

The biggest difference from the Mars rover Curiosity is that scientists are seeking the largest diversity in rock sample types so they have a better chance of finding evidence of life.

"This mission, because it's seeking the signs of life and caching samples, it has a different objective than Curiosity had," Meyer said. "Therefore, even though the four landing sites that were in the running -- including Gale -- are very interesting and top-rated landing sites, they may not be top-rated for Mars 2020."

Meyer says some scientists have suggested returning to locations where previous Mars rovers touched down because the new instruments on board the 2020 Mars rover will allow more questions to be answered. The final landing spot is not expected to be chosen before 2018, but scientists are debating the merits of a good number of spots all over the red planet.

"I think we have 55-ish community proposals of [landing] sites," said George Tahu, Mars 2020 rover program executive. "We took the first crack at those. Nothing has been eliminated at this point. It's just the first cut at starting to look at them."

Although the Mars rover 2020 project has not received a final name yet, it's expected to be modeled after the design of the Curiosity, which means the new rover will weigh about one ton and feature six wheels. Otherwise, the instruments built into the new Mars rover will be focused on finding life in space.