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Mars 2020

Mars 2020 Rover Mission
The Curiosity rover; the design basis for the Mars 2020 rover.
Operator NASA
Major contractors Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mission type Rover
Launch date Proposed for July 2020[1]
Mission highlight Assess planetary habitability, biosignatures and technology demonstration.
Power Radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG)
Mars landing
To be determined

The Mars 2020 rover mission is a Mars planetary rover mission concept under study by NASA with a proposed launch in 2020.[1] It is intended to investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars, investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability and potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.[2][3]

The Mars 2020 rover mission was announced by NASA on 4 December 2012 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.[4] The rover's design will be derived from the Curiosity rover, and would carry a different scientific payload.[5] Nearly 60 proposals[6][7] for rover instrumentation were evaluated and, on 31 July 2014, NASA announced the payload for the rover.[8][9]


  • Mission 1
    • Proposed objectives 1.1
  • Design 2
  • Scientific instruments 3
  • Reactions 4
  • Images 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Launch windows 2018–2020[10]
Year Launch Launch velocity
2018 Apr 2018 – May 2018 7.7–11.1 km2/sec2
2020 Jul 2020 – Sep 2020 13.2–18.4 km2/sec2

The rover is proposed to be launched in 2020.[4] The Jet Propulsion Laboratory would manage the mission. The specific payload and science instruments for the mission will be debated and selected by April 2014 through an open competition after the scientific objectives for the mission have been formulated.[11] The mission will also be contingent on receiving adequate funding.[12][13][14] Precise mission details will be determined by the mission's science definition team.[12]

Proposed objectives

NASA's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), as well as the associate administrator of science John Grunsfeld, endorse a sample retrieval and return mission to Earth for scientific analysis.[14][15][16] Regardless, a mission requirement is that it must help prepare NASA for its long-term sample return or manned mission efforts.[3][16][17]

Scientific process for searching past life on Mars (NASA, 9 July 2013)

During a press conference in 9 July 2013, the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team, reiterated that the rover should look for signs of past life, collect samples for possible future return to Earth, and demonstrate technology for future human exploration of Mars. The Science Definition Team is proposing the rover collect and package as many as 31 samples of rock cores and soil for a later mission to bring back for more definitive analysis in laboratories on Earth. In September 2013 NASA launched an Announcement of Opportunity for researchers to propose and develop the instruments needed, including a core sample cache, thereby satisfying NRC Planetary Decadal Survey science recommendations.[18][19] The science conducted by the rover's instruments would provide the context needed to make wise decisions about whether to return the samples to Earth.[20] The chairman of the Science Definition Team stated that NASA does not presume that life ever existed on Mars, but given the recent Curiosity rover findings, past Martian life seems possible.[20]

The rover could make measurements and technology demonstrations to help designers of a human expedition understand any hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate how to collect carbon dioxide (CO2), which could be a resource for making oxygen (O2) and rocket fuel.[11] Improved precision landing technology that enhances the scientific value of robotic missions also will be critical for eventual human exploration on the surface.[21] Based on input from the Science Definition Team, NASA will select final objectives for the 2020 rover. Those will become the basis for soliciting proposals to provide instruments for the rover's science payload in the spring 2014.[11]


Mars 2020 Rover - Payload (artist concept; 31 July 2014).[8][9]

As proposed, the rover would be based on the design of Curiosity.[4] While there will be differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the sky crane and heat shield) and rover chassis can essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research. This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.[22]

Among the leftover Curiosity equipment, a radioisotope thermoelectric generator—originally intended as a backup part for Curiosity—will power the rover.[4][23]

The new rover mission and launch is estimated to cost roughly US$1.5 billion, plus or minus $200 million, according to The Aerospace Corporation. The mission's predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory, cost US$2.5 billion in total.[4] NASA was working toward coming up with its own estimate as of the day of the announcement.[24] NASA associate administrator of science John Grunsfeld said it was the availability of spare parts that would make the new rover affordable on NASA's lean budget. Curiosity's engineering team will also be involved in the new rover's design.[4][12]

Scientific instruments

  • Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials.[25][26]
  • Radar Imager for Mars' subsurface experiment (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar to image dozens of meters beneath the rover.[27][28]
  • Mars Environmental Dynamic Analyzer (MEDA), a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape.
  • The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen (O2) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).[29] This technology could be used in the future to support human life or make rocket fuel for return missions.[30]
  • SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis and mineralogy in rocks and regolith from a distance.
  • Mastcam-Z, a stereoscopic imaging system with the ability to zoom.
  • [32][31]
Mars 2020 Rover - Instruments
Mars 2020 - MOXIE
Mars 2020 - PIXL.[25] 
Mars 2020 - SHERLOC.[31] 


In reaction to the announcement, California U.S. Representative Adam Schiff came out in support of the new rover mission plans, saying that "an upgraded rover with additional instrumentation and capabilities is a logical next step that builds upon now proven landing and surface operations systems."[4] Schiff also said he favored an expedited launch in 2018 which would enable an even greater payload to be launched to Mars. Schiff said he would be working with NASA, White House administration and Congress to explore the possibility of advancing the launch date.[4]

NASA's science chief John Grunsfeld responded that while it could be possible to launch in 2018, "it would be a push." Grunsfeld said a 2018 launch would require certain science investigations be excluded from the rover and that even the 2020 launch target would be "ambitious."[4]

Space educator Bill Nye added his support for the planned mission saying, “We don't want to stop what we're doing on Mars because we're closer than ever to answering these questions: Was there life on Mars and stranger still, is there life there now in some extraordinary place that we haven't yet looked at? Mars was once very wet—it had oceans and lakes. Did life start on Mars and get flung into space and we are all descendants of Martian microbes? It's not crazy, and it's worth finding out. It's worth the cost of a cup of coffee per taxpayer every 10 years or 13 years to find out.” Nye also endorsed a Mars sample-return role, saying “The amount of information you can get from a sample returned from Mars is believed to be extraordinarily fantastic and world-changing and worthy."[33]

The selection has been criticized for NASA's constant attention to Mars,[34] and neglecting other Solar System destinations in constrained budget times.


Mars 2020 Rover (artist concepts)
Mars 2020 Rover (10 July 2013). 
Mars 2020 Rover (10 July 2013). 
Mars 2020 Rover - sample caching concept (4 December 2012). 
Mars 2020 Rover - Journey To Mars (31 July 2014). 
Mars 2020 Mission
Importance of Large Scale Sample Analysis (NASA, 9 July 2013). 
Importance of Fine Scale Sample Analysis (NASA, 9 July 2013). 
Prototype - Returnable Cache of Martian Samples (NASA, 9 July 2013). 
Mars 2020 Mission
Proposed Mars Plant Experiment (MPX) on Rover (6 May 2014).[35] 
Proposed Mars Plant Experiment (MPX) Concept on Rover (6 May 2014).[35] 

Mars 2020 Mission - Timeline (NASA, 10 July 2013).
Mars Exploration - Timeline (NASA, 10 July 2013).

See also


  1. ^ a b Nelson, Jon. "Mars Exploration Program: 2020 Mission".  
  2. ^ Chang, Alicia (9 July 2013). "Panel: Next Mars rover should gather rocks, soil".  
  3. ^ a b Cowing, Keith (21 December 2012). "Science Definition Team for the 2020 Mars Rover".  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harwood, William (4 December 2012). "NASA announces plans for new $1.5 billion Mars rover". CNET. Retrieved 5 December 2012. Using spare parts and mission plans developed for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, the space agency says it can build and launch a new rover in 2020 and stay within current budget guidelines. 
  5. ^ Amos, Jonathan (4 December 2012). "Nasa to send new rover to Mars in 2020".  
  6. ^ Webster, Guy; Brown, Dwayne (21 January 2014). "NASA Receives Mars 2020 Rover Instrument Proposals for Evaluation".  
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c Brown, Dwayne (31 July 2014). "RELEASE 14-208 - NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload to Explore the Red Planet as Never Before".  
  9. ^ a b c Brown, Dwayne (31 July 2014). "NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload to Explore the Red Planet as Never Before".  
  10. ^ D. McCleese, et al. - Robotic Mars Exploration Strategy
  11. ^ a b c Klotz, Irene (21 November 2013). "Mars 2020 Rover To Include Test Device To Tap Planet’s Atmosphere for Oxygen". Space News. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  12. ^ a b c Wall, Mike (4 December 2012). "NASA to Launch New Mars Rover in 2020". Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  13. ^ Weiss, Todd R. (6 December 2012). "NASA Aiming for Mars Again With New Science Rover in 2020". eWeek. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Mann, Adam (4 December 2012). "NASA Announces New Twin Rover for Curiosity Launching to Mars in 2020". Wired. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  15. ^ "Mars Planning Group Endorses Sample Return".   (subscription required)
  16. ^ a b Summary of the MPPG Final Report
  17. ^ Moskowitz, Clara (5 February 2013). "Scientists Offer Wary Support for NASA's New Mars Rover". Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  18. ^ "Announcement of Opportunity: Mars 2020 Investigations" (PDF). NASA. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  19. ^ "Mars 2020 Mission: Instruments". NASA. 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  20. ^ a b "Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover". Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA). 9 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  21. ^ Bergin, Chris (2 September 2014). "Curiosity EDL data to provide 2020 Mars Rover with super landing skills". NASA Space Flight. Retrieved 2014-09-03. 
  22. ^ Dreier, Casey (10 January 2013). "New Details on the 2020 Mars Rover".  
  23. ^ Boyle, Alan (4 December 2012). "NASA plans 2020 Mars rover remake". Cosmic Log. NBC News. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  24. ^ "Mars redux: NASA to launch Curiosity-like rover". Idaho State Journal. Associated Press. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  25. ^ a b c Webster, Guy (31 July 2014). "Mars 2020 Rover's PIXL to Focus X-Rays on Tiny Targets".  
  26. ^ "Adaptive sampling for rover x-ray lithochemistry". 
  27. ^ Chung, Emily (19 August 2014). "Mars 2020 rover's RIMFAX radar will 'see' deep underground". Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 
  28. ^ U of T scientist to play key role on Mars 2020 Rover Mission
  29. ^ Borenstein, Seth (31 July 2014). "NASA to test making rocket fuel ingredient on Mars".  
  30. ^ Webb, Jonathan (1 August 2014). "Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for future manned missions". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  31. ^ a b c Webster, Guy (31 July 2014). "SHERLOC to Micro-Map Mars Minerals and Carbon Rings".  
  32. ^ "SHERLOC: Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals, an Investigation for 2020". 
  33. ^ Rosie Mestel (6 December 2012). "Bill Nye, the (planetary) science guy, on NASA's future". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  34. ^ Matson, John (21 February 2013). "Has NASA Become Mars-Obsessed?".  
  35. ^ a b c d Wall, Mike (6 May 2014). "NASA May Put Greenhouse on Mars in 2021".  

External links

  • M2020 - Mars Mission 2020 - Home Page.
  • M2020 - Science Definition Team Report - FAQs (July 2013).
  • M2020 - Video (03:09) - Proposed Science Goals (July 2013).
  • M2020 - Video (51:42) - New Science Instruments (July 2014).
  • Video (60:00) - "Minerals and the Origins of Life" - (Robert Hazen; NASA; April 2014).
  • Video (86:49) - "Search for Life in the Universe" - (NASA; July 2014).
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