The Mars Rovers: Mars 2020

a cartoon illustration of the Mars 2020 rover

Rovers on Mars have collected evidence of water and some of the chemical building blocks of life. Scientists think it might be possible that life existed on Mars a long time ago. If there were living things, they were probably teeny tiny little organisms—something like bacteria here on Earth. But, did life actually ever get started on Mars?

The Mars 2020 mission hopes to answer that question. The mission will send a rover very similar to Curiosity to explore the rocks, dirt, and air on Mars. Like Curiosity, the Mars 2020 rover is the size of a small SUV. The new rover has a different goal and different instruments. She will look directly for signs of past life on Mars.

The new rover will also experiment with a natural resource that would be helpful in planning a human mission to Mars.

The atmosphere of Mars is made mostly of a gas called carbon dioxide. But many living things (including humans) need oxygen to breathe. If a human were to go to Mars, they would have to bring lots of oxygen. However, there isn’t much room on the spacecraft to carry liquid oxygen.

The rover will test a method for getting oxygen from the air in the Martian atmosphere. This will help NASA plan for the best designs to send human astronauts to explore Mars one day.

The rover doesn’t launch until 2020, so scientists are still deciding on where the rover should land to explore the Red Planet. Stay tuned!

an illustration of cartoon scientists pointing to sites on a Mars globe
article last updated August 3, 2016
More Less
More Less