NASA's InSight Lander is all set to Enter Mars' Atmosphere

"Mars is really the obvious place, after the Moon, to go and expand our presence in deep space", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's science mission directorate.

At least five different kinds of rocks, including "clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life", are believed to lie in the crater, just north of the Martian equator, the U.S. space agency said.

One week before the next Mars mission is due to land, NASA has chosen the landing site for its next next Mars mission. "Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionise how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life".

Scientists have debated where to land the rover for the past four years, and whittled down their decision from a total of 64 possible sites.

Landing on Mars is incredibly hard. Upon the landing of InSight, the twin CubeSats would navigate their way to the lander's position, allowing them to send information back to Earth. It'll also have experiments to test technologies that future astronauts will need, such as producing oxygen from Mars' thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere, and the equipment that's needed to extract and store samples for future missions to pick up.

And in the 2020s, NASA's next rover is likely to be joined by the European Space Agency's first rover, which is part of the European-Russian ExoMars exploration campaign.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero Crater interesting to scientists also makes it a challenge for the rover's entry, descent and landing.

Image: NASA has announced the rover will land in the Jezero Crater.

"Nothing has been more hard in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars", said Zurbuchen. "The team will continue its work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success".

Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said the InSight lander was on target to touch down on Mars on Monday (Nov 26) to study - for the first time - the interior of the Red Planet. While this is not the first time a USA -built spacecraft will visit Mars, the InSight would be the first to conduct underground exploration.

  • Joe Gonzales