NASA has chosen a rugged Crater Lake as the landing spot for its Mars 2020 crude oil mission on the Red Planet after a five-year search for 60 candidates.
Mission scientists believe that this 45-kilometer crater, once home in the old river delta, could gather and preserve old organic molecules and other possible signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flow. Billions of years ago.
The mission of the remote vehicle is scheduled to begin in July 2020 as the next step of NASA in the Red Planet survey. Not only will he look for signs of ancient habitation and past microbial life, but the rover also collects samples of rocks and soils and places them in a hide on the surface of the planet. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are exploring future mission concepts to restore samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site creates a scene for the next decade of Mars exploration.
"The landing site in the Lake Crater offers a geologically rich terrain of 3.6 billion years of land that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology," said Thomas Zurbuchen, an administrator. Associate Director of the NASA Scientific Missions. "Getting samples from this unique area will change our way of thinking about Mars and its ability to live life."
The Lake Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact pylon north of the Martian Equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars offers.
An ancient lakeside system in the Crater Delta Lake offers many promising sampling targets for at least five different types of rocks, including clay and carbonate, which have a high potential for retaining signatures in the past. In addition, the material transferred to the delta from the large pan may contain various minerals both inside and outside the crater.
Challenge for safe landing
The geological diversity that makes Lake so attractive to Mars 2020 scientists is also challenging the entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Together with the mighty delta of a nearby river and small shocks of craters, there are numerous rocks in the east, reefs in the west and depressions full of windy beds (waves derived from the wind in the sand that could catch the rover) in several places.
"Mars has long known about the scientific value of sites such as Lake Crater and preceded the mission there, but challenges with safe landings were considered prohibitive," said Ken Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. "But what was out of reach today is possible thanks to the Mars 2020 technical team and advances in technology for entry, descent and landing on Mars."
When landing searches began, mission engineers had already improved the landing system in such a way that they could reduce the Marsu 2020 landing area to 50% less than the landing surface of the rover. NASA Courage in the Gale Crater in 2012.
This allowed the scientific community to consider the most demanding landing sites. Places of great scientific interest led NASA to add a new capacity called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will allow a falling stage of a "tower crane", a rocket system that takes the vehicle to the surface to avoid dangerous areas.
Site selection depends on extensive analyzes and TRN capability testing. The final report will be submitted to the Independent Review Commission and NASA Directorate in autumn 2019.
"In robotic exploration of planets, it was nothing more difficult than landing on Mars," Zurbuchen said. "The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a huge amount of work to prepare us for this decision, and will continue to work on it to truly understand the NRT system and the risks associated with it, and we will review these findings independently to ensure maximum chances of success."