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NASA Reveals 2020 Rover Mission

Jul 31, 2014 06:01 PM EDT
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2020 Rover
NASA has revealed details about the highly anticipated 2020 Mars rover - a rover that may be the last automated space agency craft to explore the Red Planet before humans do... hopefully.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech )

NASA has revealed details about the highly anticipated 2020 Mars rover - a rover that may be the last automated space agency craft to explore the Red Planet before humans do... hopefully.

On Thursday, NASA announced the seven instruments that will be carried on the unnamed rover to Mars in six years. These instruments were selected out of a whopping 58 proposals received last January, and include technologies developed in international partnerships.

"Today we take another important step on our journey to Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent statement. "Mars exploration will be this generation's legacy, and the Mars 2020 rover will be another critical step on humans' journey to the Red Planet."

"While getting to and landing on Mars is hard," he added, "Curiosity was an iconic example of how our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way for humans to pioneer Mars and beyond."

The 2020 rover design will reportedly be based on the general chassis of the highly successful 2012 Mars rover, Curiosity, which continues to make its way across the Red Planet's massive Gale Crater as it searches for evidence of past Martian life and/or habitable conditions.

The 2020 rover will be an upgraded version of Curiosity, and will carry instruments intended to capitalize on Curiosity's work.

"This mission will further our search for life in the universe and also offer opportunities to advance new capabilities in exploration technology," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

(Photo : NASA)

According to Grunsfeld, the 2020 rover will also be dedicated to identifying resources human researchers can make use of during future exploration.

"Mars has resources needed to help sustain life, which can reduce the amount of supplies that human missions will need to carry," added William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "Better understanding the Martian dust and weather will be valuable data for planning human Mars missions. Testing ways to extract these resources and understand the environment will help make the pioneering of Mars feasible."

NASA hopes to eventually have a man on Mars within the next two decades, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently expressed his confidence that humanity will reach Mars by 2026. And if we don't? He claims his private space company will pick up the slack.

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