The Next Rover NASA Is Sending to Mars Will Produce Oxygen and Search for Farmland

Back in June, Chief NASA Scientist Ellen Stofan did an interview in which she announced NASA’s plans to colonize Mars.

“We like to talk about pioneering Mars rather than just exploring Mars, because once we get to Mars we will set up some sort of permanent presence,”

she told the Guardian in the interview.

Now, NASA is taking the first steps towards that goal, officially announcing a groundbreaking rover mission planned for the summer 2020.

The 2020 rover will look a lot like the Curiosity rover launched in 2012. Like Curiosity, as well as Spirit and Opportunity (the other two most recent rovers), the 2020 rover will be searching for signs of life.

An overview of the planned rover. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of NASA)

But unlike any of its other predecessors, the 2020 rover will actively seek to create the conditions in which human colonization would be feasible.

“The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet,”

said William Gerstenmaier, who has served as NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations since 2005.

This process will include experiments that turn carbon dioxide in the Martian air into oxygen, “for human respiration.” This oxygen would also make it possible for rocket fuel to be produced on Mars, giving spacecrafts an opportunity to refuel there.

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), will produce oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of NASA)

The rover will also be equipped with the latest photography equipment. 3-D cameras will capture detailed panoramic images of the Red Planet.

Also, spectrometers will allow the rover to analyze the chemical make-up of the Martian soil. This will allow NASA to gauge their ability to establish and support farming efforts by astronauts in the future.

“An ability to live off the Martian land would transform future exploration of the planet,”

NASA said in a statement they released about the 2020 mission.

Check out the pictures below to see a timeline for the mission and explore more of the features to be included on the 2020 rover. Click an image to enlarge:

Read the original story from CNN here.

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