The follow-up mission to NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is currently in the planning stages. And NASA has released details on what to expect from the next-generation Martian science laboratory.
NASA launched Curiosity into space in November of 2011 to determine if the conditions on Mars were ever hospitable to life. The roving science lab reached Mars approximately eight months later. After two years of investigating the red planet, Curiosity has discovered evidence that indicates there is substantial water on Mars. And, further, evidence obtained by Curiosity suggests that Mars was, indeed, once habitable and may still be habitable today.
Curiosity’s primary mission was originally scheduled to end on August 31, 2014, but it was extended by NASA indefinitely. Although Curiosity will continue working on the red planet, NASA plans to send another rover to Mars in 2020 to build on the success of Curiosity.
According to NASA, the 2020 rover mission will “address key questions about the potential for life on Mars,” and will “provide opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars.”
The appearance of the new rover will reportedly be similar to Curiosity. And, as Space.com reports, “Although the new rover’s science payload is less massive than Curiosity’s, scientists expect the new instruments to be more capable.” Some of the onboard tools will be souped-up versions of equipment currently on Curiosity. But other equipment, like the The Mars Oxygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment (MOXIE) will add new ground-breaking tools to the arsenal of scientific equipment on Mars. Space.com explains the proof-of-concept MOXIE device, describing that the instrument “will ingest the toxic Martian air and produce breathable oxygen from the carbon dioxide it contains,” which could eventually be used on life-support systems for future astronauts.
Space.com assembled the following infographic to illustrate the Mars 2020 rover and its instruments.
For more information regarding Mars 2020, visit the mission’s website at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mars2020/.