NASA has sent many things to the planet known as Mars, but this time they're going to be sending a rover for one purpose: to find evidence of past life in an ancient river.
The rover is going to be a copy of NASA's Curiosity rover but will be armed with a few different instruments to search carbon building blocks. It is going to launch in July of 2020 but will only actually land on the planet in February of 2021.
The rover will come outfitted with a weather station, a ground-penetrating radar, several cameras, and instruments to analyze minerals.
It will be headed to a place called Jezero, a crater that's twenty-eight miles wide and just so happens to be north of the red planet's equator. NASA's choice for this location was that there's evidence suggesting that it was once a lake that ran eight-hundred feet deep and possibly even had rivers that went in and out of it.
According to The Spec, the Jezero site is seen as the most promising to find at least some evidence of life as it is believed that Mars once harbored a warmer and wetter climate. The possibility of it being a lake means that there is a good chance that life was present around 3.5 billion years ago.
Don't get your hopes up though, the rover is not going to be looking for living microbes. In fact, according to Kenneth Farley, the mission's project scientist, the surface is far too dry, cold and littered with radiation for microbes to survive.
The region has certain types of rocks that could provide valuable information on the lake itself such as when it existed. The volcanic rocks could give more info on this while the carbonate rocks have the chance to provide info on what the environment of the time was like.
It's going to be pretty cool to find out some new information about Mars, for decades people have wanted to actually visit the planet but for obvious reasons cannot. However, this rover could act as yet another baby step in the direction of being able to send a human on the red planet. But it's just that, a baby step, it doesn't mean it'll be the first great discovery on how to get the job done, it is just going to help us find some more information about the past in an otherwise unforgiving wasteland.