Since ancient times, the Red Planet has captured the imaginations of scientists, writers and the general public. In July 2020, three rovers with different chemical missions are scheduled to launch to Mars in an attempt to answer questions about the planet’s history and whether life could have ever existed there, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
The three missions include NASA’s Mars 2020, ExoMars 2020 (run jointly by the European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos) and the Mars 2020 mission of the China National Space Administration. If all goes as planned, the rovers will be the ninth, tenth and eleventh spacecraft to reach Mars’ surface intact and transmit data, and China’s rover would represent that nation’s first successful Mars landing, Assistant Editor Sam Lemonick writes. All three Mars rovers will carry instruments that can analyze rocks and soil for evidence of life, but they differ in their logistics, research questions and destinations on the planet’s surface.
NASA’s as-yet-unnamed rover will land in the Jezero crater, the site of an ancient river delta. Scientists think that the sediments there are a good place to look for signs of life. In addition to analyzing chemicals on-site, the NASA rover will collect and store soil samples to be returned to Earth at a later date for more extensive tests. ExoMars 2020’s rover, christened the Rosalind Franklin, will touch down at the Oxia Planum, a Martian plain where waterways could have once flowed into a vast sea. Along with other equipment, this rover has a drill that can collect samples from 6.5 feet below the planet’s surface, where complex organic chemicals could have survived destructive cosmic radiation. China hasn’t yet announced where its rover, the HX-1, will land, but the spacecraft contains ground-penetrating radar and equipment for chemical analysis. Scientists are excited to learn what new information about Mars the three rovers will obtain.
The article, “3 rovers will head to Mars in 2020. Here’s what you need to know about their chemical missions,” is freely available here.
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