MIAMI (CBSMiami) — NASA is counting down to their next journey to Mars. Scientists are preparing a new rover to send to the red planet – with a new mission.
NASA’s engineers are taking their Mars rover to a new level, building a next generation explorer for a key mission.
“We are seeking signs of ancient life,” explained Ken Williford, one of the lead scientists with ‘Mars 2020’.
“These are the actual pieces of flight hardware that will fly to Mars,” he says.
The hardware will deliver a new rover to the red planet with major upgrades. Such as radar that can search for water beneath the planet’s surface and a drill designed to collect samples of solid Martian rock.
Engineer Kyle Brown’s team is running countless drilling tests on rocks gathered around the world that could be similar to what the rover might encounter.
The rover will drill the samples then seal the rocks in labeled capsules, leaving them at various sites across the planet.
“This is our goal, nice, intact about 2 inch long,” he explained while holding up a sample.
A compact core could reveal fossils or other signs of life from the planet’s past.
“We expect to find rocks that were deposited billions of years ago around the time when we think life was first beginning to emerge on Earth,” Williford noted.
Those rock samples could set up another critical mission called “Mars Sample Return”.
NASA scientists are hoping to one day collect them and remotely rocket them back home for closer inspection on earth.
To date, NASA has successfully landed seven rovers on Mars. The next mission will launch sometime in the summer of 2020, with a scheduled landing on Mars in February 2021.