NASA picks landing site for Mars 2020 rover

Jezero Crater
This color-coded image of the Jezero Crater delta combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / JHU-APL)

One week before the next Mars mission is due to land, NASA has chosen the landing site for its next next Mars mission. Jezero Crater will be where NASA’s yet-to-be-named rover will land on Feb. 18, 2021, the space agency announced today.

“It’s a Thursday,” said Allen Chen, who’s leading the entry, descent and landing team for what’s currently known as NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. That touchdown is due to come seven months after the mission’s launch in mid-July 2020.

Jezero Crater is thought to be the site of an ancient river delta on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Scientists say the 28-mile-wide crater’s rocks and soil may contain organic molecules and other traces of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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