NASA selects ancient crater as next Mars landing site

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL.
On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL.

The crater was chosen after a five-year search that examined some 60 other sites on Mars.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 8:13 AM

NASA has chosen the landing site for its next rover mission to Mars: a treacherously rugged 3.6 billion-year-old crater.

The 28-mile- (45-kilometer) wide Jezero Crater was selected as the destination for the mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2020, because of its potential for scientific research.

"The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life," he added.

The crater was chosen after a five-year search that examined some 60 other sites on Mars.

Jezero's ancient lake-delta system offers promising sampling targets of at least five kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life, NASA said in a press statement posted online.

The material carried into the delta from a large watershed may also contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater, it added.

Organic matter has already been found on the planet in soil samples taken from 3 billion-year-old mudstone and methane has been detected in the Martian atmosphere.

Landing on Mars is incredibly difficult. Only 40% of missions sent to the Red Planet by any agency have been successful.

Part of this is due to the thin Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of Earth's, so there's nothing to slow down something trying to land on the surface.

The United States is the only country to have missions that survived landing on Mars. NASA has been flying past, orbiting, landing and roving over Mars since 1965.

'Once out of reach, now conceivable'

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero Crater interesting to scientists also makes it a challenge for the rover's entry, descent and landing.

NASA said as well as its river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

"The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive," said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies."

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA's Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012.

Sky crane

NASA has added a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation, which will enable the "sky crane" descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

"Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars," said Zurbuchen.

"The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue its work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success."

On November 26, NASA's Mars InSight lander will touch down on the Red Planet at 3 p.m. EST, the first time in six years a new mission will land on Mars.

InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is going to explore a part of Mars that we know the least about: its deep interior. It launched May 5.

Huntsville
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 66°
Florence
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 65°
Fayetteville
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 66°
Scottsboro
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 68°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16530

Reported Deaths: 591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2124112
Jefferson1712100
Montgomery154134
Tuscaloosa67813
Marshall6689
Lee53332
Franklin5147
Shelby48419
Tallapoosa41864
Butler39213
Chambers34924
Madison3184
Elmore3137
Walker2991
Baldwin2819
Etowah24411
Dallas2443
DeKalb2413
Morgan2311
Coffee2241
Lowndes22210
Sumter2136
Autauga2053
Houston1884
Bullock1833
Pike1790
Colbert1612
Russell1590
Marengo1556
Lauderdale1532
Calhoun1523
Hale1517
Choctaw1488
Wilcox1347
Barbour1321
Clarke1292
Randolph1257
Marion11911
St. Clair1161
Pickens1014
Talladega1003
Dale990
Chilton971
Cullman960
Greene924
Limestone870
Winston820
Covington771
Jackson752
Crenshaw722
Bibb711
Henry712
Macon712
Washington666
Blount581
Escambia493
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Conecuh351
Coosa351
Monroe352
Perry350
Cherokee342
Clay272
Lamar210
Fayette130
Cleburne131
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 21679

Reported Deaths: 356
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson489460
Shelby4718107
Trousdale13934
Rutherford111622
Sumner85245
Hamilton71915
Bledsoe6081
Williamson53310
Putnam4615
Robertson4412
Tipton4303
Lake4130
Wilson3878
Out of TN3794
Knox3575
Bedford2744
Montgomery2613
Rhea1980
Hardeman1940
Madison1752
Loudon1370
McMinn13614
Macon1243
Cheatham1180
Cumberland1111
Dickson1100
Fayette1102
Bradley1081
Blount893
Maury810
Sevier762
Washington750
Coffee680
Unassigned670
Wayne630
Gibson611
Monroe612
Sullivan602
Hickman570
Lauderdale561
Dyer500
Franklin491
Greene482
Anderson391
Marion381
DeKalb370
Grundy321
Hawkins312
Haywood302
Smith301
Hamblen302
Henry300
Marshall301
White300
Obion281
Jefferson280
Carroll271
Meigs260
Overton260
Weakley260
Lincoln250
Lawrence240
Warren220
Cocke200
Carter191
Jackson170
Morgan170
Cannon170
Campbell171
Roane160
Crockett162
Perry160
Johnson160
Polk150
Sequatchie150
Henderson140
Humphreys131
Chester120
Fentress120
Giles120
McNairy120
Scott110
Stewart110
Hardin112
Claiborne90
Houston80
Benton71
Grainger60
Clay60
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Unicoi40
Moore30
Pickett30
Lewis30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events