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NASA is preparing to choose the landing site of the Mars Life Detection Mission

ByJ.R. Skok Researcher at the SETI Institute John Roma (JR) Shock works with NASA to help determine where the March…

J.R. Skok

Researcher at the SETI Institute John Roma (JR) Shock works with NASA to help determine where the March 2020 robber could collect samples.

On October 16, the Mars Science Society convenes for a three-day meeting near Los Angeles to determine where the next-generation NASA mission to Mars will be investigated. They will meet for the 4th landing workshop of the March 2020 test tube. After decades of landers, robbers and orbiters investigating Mars, NASA has determined that the only way to truly deepen our understanding of Mars is to retrieve a handful of samples to be studied in the best laboratories on earth.

March 2020 will be the first step in a three mission plan to return samples from the red planet. The rover collects ~ 1

00 grams carefully selected samples and caches them in a sheltered container. The March mission that will follow March 2020 will land close to these samples, collect the cache and launch it in circulation around the world. The third and last mission will then rendezvous with these samples around Mars and launch them back to earth for studies. These two latest missions will be due to a successful and valuable collection of March 2020 trials. This is a great deal to choose the perfect landing site to explore the deepest secrets of March’s history.

The first mission of the primary mission is to gather potential evidence of the old life or biosignatures, which researchers call them. After three previous landing workshops for March 2020, the Mars Community has reduced the options to three potential sites representing different ideas for finding biosignatures on Mars and a fourth hybrid site than combining two of these regions. Each of these sites is determined to be safe for the mission to land and drive, and they have every opportunity to preserve proof of old life.

The finalist sites being treated include Columbia Hills, the Exploration Rover Spirit exploration site, which explored the region from 2004 to 2010, and found evidence of warm spring intrins, ideal for preserving biosignatures, if present when active, at least 3 billion years ago. Jezero River Delta, a sedimentary lake deposit that would include potential biosignatures in layers of clay. Or northeastern Syrtis, a region of exposed deep bedrock that could have been there the old underground life once flourished. A fourth potential site, called Midway, lies between the nearby northeast Syrian and Jezero sites and could have the potential to visit the terrain from both regions over an extended mission.

 Figure of Mars showing Jezero, Northeast Syrtis and Midway Landing Sites.

I will present at the meeting to Nordöst Syrtis, a site I have researched for 8 years. Northeast Syrtis represents rocks from the ancient Noachian, the most earthy and dynamic times on Mars and a kind of environment that former missions to Mars have not been able to explore because they are usually for rocky or mountainous to land close. My second research focus is on detecting biosignatures in silicon fluid fillings, work that would be directly related to an assignment to Columbia Hills.

As we enter the final landing ground, NASA must determine its very nature’s mission to explore the solar system. All three types of county councils have entire scientific communities that support it as the best place to find biosignatures. One of the most important differences between them is the philosophical motivation to explore. Columbia Hills is a place we have previously visited with Spirit Rover. It’s a fascinating site, with much more to explore with new instruments and return samples. Furthermore, we have already depicted the most important outcrops, we can plan exactly what rocks we want to try before we even get there. However, this mission would still go to a place we saw earlier. Mars has the same amount of dry land to explore as the earth, and we have only landed in 7 places. Everyone chose to be flat and safe. The more robust and scientifically interesting places that were formed in the early hours of Mars have not yet been explored in depth at all. March 2020 is the first task of landing technology to really explore the rugged, ancient rocks of Mars. Should NASA use that technology to go to a convincing, scientifically safe place in Columbia Hills, or use it to explore fundamentally new terrain as we know is in northeastern Syrtis, Midway and sampled in the delta of Jezero?

This is the basic debate for the mission and landing choice. Do we prioritize guaranteed scientific success or play it to explore a new site that can revolutionize our understanding of ancient Mars or prove to have no samples worth returning? NASA must decide if it wants to explore Mars or analyze it.

On a planet as varied and mysterious as Mars, I continue to believe that we are still in the exploration stage and need to see new countries and the secrets they offer before doubling on previous sites. Mars is great and we have just begun it, with luck and hard work we can explore the deep history of this fascinating world.

Workshop will be broadcast live on Adobe Connect. You can listen to all the science as it happens on the workshops website:

During the weeks after the meeting, NASA officials will consider all efforts by researchers, engineers and members in society and make a final decision.

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