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Here’s how NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will look

Mars 2020 rover
This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on the surface of Mars. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The rover that NASA is getting ready to send to Mars in 2020 looks a lot like the Curiosity rover that’s been working on Mars for almost five years – except for that freakishly big robotic arm.

The arm is one of the keys to the rover’s more ambitious mission: to turn up potential traces left behind by ancient life on the Red Planet, and to tuck away samples for eventual return to Earth.

The six-wheeled robot, built on the same type of chassis used for Curiosity, is due for launch in the summer of 2020 toward one of three sites: Northeast Syrtis Major, Jezero Crater or Columbia Hills.

NASA probably won’t decide which site to target for another year or two, but in the meantime, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory put out a new artist’s concept showing the 2020 rover at a Martian work site. The site shown in the picture actually looks a lot like Curiosity’s stomping grounds in Gale Crater.

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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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