Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy
. Mars Exploration News .

NASA's next Mars rover will advance hunt for past life
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) July 09, 2013

The next robotic rover to explore Mars in 2020 should scour the surface of the red planet more closely than ever for signs of past life, a NASA science team said Tuesday.

The US space agency's science definition team (SDT) released a 154-page document containing its proposals for the next Mars rover, after five months of work.

The mission would use microscopic analysis for the first time, collect the first rock samples for possible return to Earth and test ways to use natural resources on site for a future human trip, it said.

The Mars 2020 mission would build on the work being done by NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the red planet since August 2012 and has already found evidence of potentially habitable environments.

John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, said the 2020 Mars rover would get the US space agency to the next step in the "quest to answer the grand questions," before a planned human mission in the 2030s.

"Do we see any evidence of past life in those habitable environments?" he said.

The next step is for NASA to analyze the recommendations and issue a call for scientific instruments, which could include higher resolution imaging devices, microscopes, fine scale minerology, chemistry and organic carbon detection tools.

"To combine this suite of instruments would be incredibly powerful," said Jack Mustard, SDT chair and professor of geological sciences at Brown University.

The rover would collect about 31 samples that might someday be returned to Earth, representing "a legacy for understanding the development of habitability on the planet," he told reporters.

The US space agency has not yet devised the technology to bring the cache back to Earth without disturbing its contents, and no plans have been set for any potential sample-return.

The next NASA mission to Mars is a November launch of MAVEN, an orbiter that will study how Mars interacted with the solar wind and lost its atmosphere.

The European Space Agency will follow in 2018 with its ExoMars rover.

"The Mars 2020 mission will provide a unique capability to address the major questions of habitability and life in the solar system," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters, describing the plans as "a major step toward seeking signs of life."

The rover would explore an ancient site on Mars, which has yet to be decided, and any samples it collects may help reveal hazards posed by Martian dust to potential human explorers.

However, samples would have to "be retrieved, potentially quarantined, and preserved in such a way that potential hazards are identified and mitigated," NASA said.

Research toward that goal is complicated but worthwhile since robotic analysis cannot "match the depth and sensitivity of analysis that can be done on samples in Earth laboratories," NASA said.

NASA also said the rover could demonstrate how to collect carbon dioxide, which could be used as a resource for making oxygen and rocket fuel for astronauts who land on the surface.

If NASA accepts the SDT's recommendations, the 2020 mission would "examine wether past environmental conditions were favorable to have supported microbial life, and also... for preserving clues about life, if any existed," NASA said.

"Beyond that, it would check at a microscopic level for potential visual, mineralogical and chemical signs of past life."

The design would be based on the Curiosity rover, a $2.5 billion dollar project that launched toward Mars in 2011, and would use the same elaborate rocket powered sky crane for landing.

Re-using the past plans, along with some spare parts left over from the building of Curiosity, would help keep mission costs and risk "as low as possible," the space agency said.

Advances in technology may lead to an even more precise landing system than last August's entry, landing and descent process that was coined "Seven Minutes of Terror" by NASA.


Related Links
Mars News and Information at
Lunar Dreams and more

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Dry run for the 2020 Mars Mission
St. Louis MO (SPX) Jul 01, 2013
A film director looking for a location where a movie about Mars could be shot might consider the Atacama Desert, a strip of land on the coast of South America west of the Andes that is one of the harshest landscapes on the planet. Due to the accidents of its geography, Atacama is the driest place on Earth. Some scientists believe there was no rain to speak of in part of the Atacama between ... read more

Scientist says Earth may once have been orbited by two moons

Dust hazard for Moon missions: scientists

NASA Seeks Information on Commercial Robotic Lunar Lander Capabilities

Orbiting astronaut controls robot on Earth, testing feasibility of CU-Boulder project on far side of the moon

China's space tracking ship Yuanwang-5 berths at Jakarta for replenishment

China plans to launch Tiangong-2 space lab around 2015

Twilight for Tiangong

China calls for international cooperation in manned space program

Russia to go ahead with space freighter launch

ISS technology to 'hear' potential leaks

Russian cosmonauts conduct space station tasks in spacewalk

Accelerating ISS Science With Upgraded Payload Operations Integration Center

Kerberos and Styx: Welcome to the Pluto System

New Horizons Team Sticking to Original Flight Plan at Pluto

Planning Accelerates For Pluto Encounter

'Vulcan' wins Pluto moon name vote

Revealed - the mystery of the gigantic storm on Saturn

Cassini Finds Hints of Activity at Saturn Moon Dione

Wild Weather Could Be Ahead on Titan

Cassini Shapes First Global Topographic Map of Titan

Long-lived oceanography satellite decommissioned after equipment fails

Images From New Space Station Camera Help U.S. Neighbor to the North

Astrium's Cloud Services will support Western Australia Lands Department

Five Years of Stereo Imaging for NASA's TWINS

Space seeds could "benefit" traditional Chinese medicines

Kennedy Facilities Key to NASA's Transition

Voyager 1 Explores Final Frontier Of Our Solar Bubble

NASA's Voyager 1 approaches outer limit of solar system

Hubble Telescope reveals variation between hot extrasolar planet atmospheres

UCSB Astronomer Uncovers The Hidden Identity Of An Exoplanet

Gas-Giant Exoplanets Cling Close to Their Parent Stars

Astronomers Detect Three 'Super-Earths' in Nearby Star's Habitable Zone

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement