Three landing sites for Mars 2020 rover shortlisted

Washington: Scientists have shortlisted three landing sites for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover — slated for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The three potential landing sites include Northeast Syrtis (a very ancient portion of Mars’ surface), Jezero crater, (once home to an ancient Martian lake), and Columbia Hills (potentially home to an ancient hot spring and explored by NASA’s Spirit rover).

The sites were recommended by participants in a landing site workshop, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.

It will also prepare a collection of samples for possible return to the Earth by a future mission.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover.