The Gadget Guy reviews the latest technology for the government and explores related trends and hot topics.
NASA recently revealed its plans for the next Mars Rover, which the space agency has scheduled to launch in 2020. Its stated goal is to look for signs of past life, collect samples for possible future return to Earth, and demonstrate technology that might be used in future manned missions to the red planet.
This is, in a word, very cool. OK, two words.
NASA is taking what it has learned from Curiosity, the most recent Rover mission — what worked, and more important, what didn’t — and applying that knowledge to the 2020 mission. The basic structure of the Curiosity probe seemed to have worked fairly well, as the plans show NASA is building off it for the new one.
Because the first stated goal is to look for signs of past life, it is pretty easy to get excited about the possibilities. But the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team — the team in charge of the mission — is not getting ahead of itself.
“The Mars 2020 mission concept does not presume that life ever existed on Mars,” said Jack Mustard, chairman of the Science Definition Team and a professor at the Geological Sciences at Brown University in Providence, R.I. “However, given the recent Curiosity findings, past Martian life seems possible, and we should begin the difficult endeavor of seeking the signs of life. No matter what we learn, we would make significant progress in understanding the circumstances of early life existing on Earth and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life.”
2020 does seem a long time to wait, but for long-distance missions like this, you don’t get too many second chances, so it’s best to make sure all your ducks are in a row. So we wait.
Are we on Mars yet?
How about now?