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Science News: The search for life on Mars in 2020 and beyond

– G.A., Senior Editor

As 2019 draws to a close, we can begin to look ahead to a highly anticipated research project that is set to kick off in 2020. Building on the overwhelming success of the Curiosity rover, NASA has designed a new, as yet unnamed, rover for an exciting new mission.

Set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in July or August of 2020, the new rover should touch down on the surface of Mars in February 2021. Over a planned mission of 687 Earth days (one Martian year), the rover will search for fossilized signs of life in the Jezero Crater, which is an area of particular interest to scientists.

The Jezero Crater is located in what was once a large river delta that had conditions that could have supported life billions of years ago, before the Martian climate became extremely dry.

While researchers are excited about the wealth of data that the rover will obtain, they are proud to point out that this new rover will be the first object to reach the surface of Mars with a microphone. This will allow us, for the very first time, to hear the sound of the Martian winds. We often take for granted the sounds we hear on a daily basis. But, hearing the sounds of Mars will give us a truly unique perspective on our planetary neighbor.

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