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NASA picks 3 top spots for a Mars landing

An artist’s conception shows the 2020 Mars rover with its robotic arm extended. (NASA / JPL Graphic)
An artist’s conception shows the 2020 Mars rover with its robotic arm extended. (NASA / JPL Graphic)

NASA has whittled down its choices for its next Mars landing site to three spots, including the hills where the space agency’s Spirit rover roamed a decade ago.

The Columbia Hills are among the three finalists because the silica deposits discovered there during Spirit’s mission suggest the site might have been part of an ancient hot springs.

That’s the sort of place that geologists say might hold evidence of past life, which is high on the scientific agenda for the rover that’s due to be launched in 2020.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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