Final Two Landing Sites For ExoMars 2020 Mission Chosen

Posted: Mar 30 2017, 8:29am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 30 2017, 9:06am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Final Two Landing Sites for ExoMars 2020 Mission Chosen
Oxia Planumm, the primary choice for 2020 ExoMars mission. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin & NASA

European Space Agency has narrowed the potential candidates for the ExoMars 2020 rover down to two finalists

European Space Agency is getting ever closer to picking a landing site for Mars 2020 mission.

After a two-day meeting with several experts at European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Netherlands, the agency has narrowed the potential candidates for the future rover mission down to two.

The two finalists are Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis. One of these two locations will be explored by the rover with an aim of searching the signs of microbial life on Martian surface. The third location, Aram Dorsum, is no longer under consideration for ExoMars mission 2020.

The final decision will be made a year before the launch of the mission.

“While all three sites under discussion would give us excellent opportunities to look for signatures of ancient biomarkers and gain new insights into the planet's wetter past, we can only carry two sites forward for further detailed analysis," said Jorge Vago, ESA's ExoMars rover project scientist.

"Thus, after an intense meeting, which focused primarily on the scientific merits of the sites, the Landing Site Selection Working Group has recommended that Mawrth Vallis join Oxia Planum as one of the final two candidates for the ExoMars 2020 mission."

Both sites are located in northern hemisphere and are characterized by ancient cratered terrains. They preserve a rich record of geological history of the Red Planet dating back billions of years ago, which make them ideal for containing the traces of past life.

ExoMars mission is a joint endeavor between ESA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos. It is a two-part mission to search for evidence of life on Mars. In the first part of the mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter arrived at Mars in late 2016, while the rover is planned to launch in 2020. The rover is expected to travel several kilometers throughout its stay on Mars. It will drill down to the depth of two below the surface and collect samples for analysis through onboard instruments. The mission will wrap up late 2022.

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