Science

Mars 2020 Connection
to the Mars Exploration Program Science Strategy:
Seek Signs of Life

The Mars 2020 rover explores a site likely to have been habitable. It will seek signs of past life, set aside a returnable cache with the most compelling rock core and soil samples, and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars.


Mars Exploration Timeline
Leveraging discoveries from past Mars missions about water and habitability on Mars, the Mars 2020 rover represents a shift toward directly seeking signs of past microbial life.

NASA's Mars Exploration Program has a long-term, systematic exploration plan for the Red Planet. Mars missions build on each other, with discoveries and innovations made by prior missions guiding what comes next. Mars missions are guided by evolving, discovery-driven science strategies that provide continuity in Mars science exploration themes.

The first framing theme guiding Mars exploration was "Follow the Water," as water is essential to habitable environments and life as we know it. It is also important to understanding the geologic and climatic history of Mars, and would likely play a role in supporting future human explorers.

With past orbiters, landers, and rovers finding evidence of water, the theme "Explore Habitability" emerged to look for additional conditions necessary to life, including chemical elements and compounds necessary for life as we know it. Findings from the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover marked a transition to the current science theme: "Seek Signs of Life."

While Curiosity is seeking evidence of habitable conditions (both past water and the chemistry needed for life), Mars 2020 is seeking signs of past life itself in the geologic record.



Mars 2020 rover will carry seven primary instruments:

 
MASTCAM
-Z

MASTCAM-Z

An advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. The instrument also will determine mineralogy of the Martian surface and assist with rover operations.

 
MEDA

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer

A set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape.

 
MOXIE

Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment

An exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 
PIXL

Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry

An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will also contain an imager with high resolution to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials. PIXL will provide capabilities that permit more detailed detection and analysis of chemical elements than ever before.

 
RIMFAX

Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment

A ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

 
SHERLOC

Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals

A spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds. SHERLOC will be the first UV Raman spectrometer to fly to the surface of Mars and will provide complementary measurements with other instruments in the payload.

 
SuperCam

SuperCam

An instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. This instrument also has a significant contribution from the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales,Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Plan├ętologie (CNES/IRAP) France.