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Planet Mars
Planet Mars
This image provides a global "snapshot" of weather patterns across the planet. Here, bluish-white water ice clouds hang above the Tharsis volcanoes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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Connection to Mars Exploration Program Science Strategy: Seek Signs of Life

The Mars 2020 mission would explore a site likely to have been habitable, seek signs of past life, fill a returnable cache with the most compelling samples, and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars.

Exploration Timeline
Exploration Timeline

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 was "Follow the Water," as water is essential to life as we know it. It is also important to understanding the geologic and climatic history of Mars, as well as how it might support future human explorers. All are relevant to whether Mars ever had or still has conditions necessary to support life.

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. Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover marks 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), under the science definition team's vision, Mars 2020 would potentially seek signs of past life itself in the geologic record. It would also potentially include experiments that would prepare for human exploration

Connection to Mars Exploration Program Science Goals

This mission would contribute to the four main science goals of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. The specific ways in which this mission would make contributions to each science goal are currently under consideration.

Goal 1 image

Goal 2 image

Goal 3 image

Goal 4 image
Determine whether life ever arose on Mars

Characterize the climate of Mars
Characterize the geology of Mars
Prepare for human exploration

Proposed Science Objectives for a Mars 2020 Rover

This objectives of this mission are currently under consideration. Based on the recommendations of the Science Definition Team, the Mars 2020 rover mission would have the following five potential objectives. Requiring both orbital and ground observations, the first three objectives have strong synergy, as they are linked by the need to decipher the geological processes and history of an "astrobiologically relevant ancient environment, " a place once capable of either supporting life as we know it or sustaining pre-biological processes leading to an origin of life.

  • Objective A: Characterize the geology of a site selected for its potential to contain evidence of past life, as well as for its geologic diversity.
  • Objective B: Search for possible signs of life preserved in the geologic record.
  • Objective C: Identify and cache scientifically compelling samples for potential future return to Earth laboratories.
  • Objective D:¬†¬†Conduct key measurements and demonstrations to enable the possible future human exploration of Mars.
  • Objective E: Make meaningful technology advancements that enable future strategic Mars missions

Science Resources

Current Planning Stage:
Science Definition
     SDT Report - July 2013 (ZIP, 11 MB)
     SDT FAQs (PDF, 29 KB)
     Science Definition Team
     Science Objectives

Other Links of Interest
Science Instruments