Move over, Curiosity. In 2020, you'll seem like old news. NASA has announced the seven instruments that the Mars 2020 rover will have on-board, including a novel mechanism that will convert carbon dioxide into oxygen while its instruments hunt for evidence of life on the red planet.
NASA carefully chose these instruments after receiving proposals from over 58 scientists and engineers from all over the world.
"The Mars 2020 rover, with these new advanced scientific instruments, including those from our international partners, holds the promise to unlock more mysteries of Mars' past as revealed in the geological record," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "This mission will further our search for life in the universe and also offer opportunities to advance new capabilities in exploration technology."
Much of the Mars 2020 mission is based on what we've learned with the successful Curiosity rover mission, which started several years ago and is still going strong. NASA wanted an upgraded rover for its 2020 mission, which will search for signs of ancient life on the planet, as well as begin tests to determine how the planet might be made habitable, laying the groundwork for eventually getting humans to Mars.
The seven instruments chosen for the 2020 rover include two camera systems, one which will be able to take zoomed in photos at a higher resolution than Curiosity's cameras. The rover will also have a spectrometer that will analyze elements in Martian soil, along with sensors that can measure wind, pressure and humidity. A radar imager will look beneath Mars' surface. Most impressively, an instrument called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment) will take carbon dioxide from Mars' air and produce oxygen from it.
NASA hopes these instruments will help scientists better understand the weather and environment on the red planet. These instruments will also test technologies for potential use in future missions with humans. Collecting samples allows us to evaluate Mars' resources, and helps us determine which resources may aid us in colonization plans.
"Mars has resources needed to help sustain life, which can reduce the amount of supplies that human missions will need to carry," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "Better understanding the Martian dust and weather will be valuable data for planning human Mars missions."
The Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA's planned path for human exploration on Mars.