NSN Webinar: Mars 2020 Rover: Searching for Signs of Ancient Life

NSN Webinar: Mars 2020 Rover: Searching for Signs of Ancient Life

  • Nighttime Event
  • Inside Venue
  • Target Audience
  • Teen, Adult
Image: NASA / Mitch Schulte

The NASA Night Sky Network heard from Dr. Mitch Schultz on September 26 for an update on the Mars 2020 Rover mission to Mars.

About Mars 2020 

The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars.

The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a "cache" on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples  to Earth.  That would help scientists study the samples in laboratories with special room-sized equipment that would be too large to take to Mars.

The mission also provides opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.

The mission is timed for a launch opportunity in July 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars. That is, it takes less power to travel to Mars at this time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits. To keep mission costs and risks as low as possible, the Mars 2020 design is based on NASA's successful Mars Science Laboratory mission architecture, including its Curiosity rover and proven landing system.

About Dr. Mitch Schulte

Dr. Mitch Schulte is a Program Scientist with the Mars Exploration Program in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.  As a Program Scientist, Mitch manages the science content of a number of NASA’s Mars missions.  Currently, he oversees the U.S. contribution to the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) instrument on the European Space Agency ExoMars rover and NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover, both scheduled for launch in July 2020.  He is also the lead scientist for the Mars Data Analysis, Instrument Concepts for Europa Exploration, and Habitable Worlds Programs for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and Planetary Science Division.

As a researcher, Mitch has studied the geology and geochemistry of hydrothermal environments and the life that inhabits them.  He also is interested in biosignatures and life detection in ancient Earth and extraterrestrial samples.  He is on the editorial board of the scientific journal Astrobiology and on the advisory board of the Big Questions Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Schulte has an A.B. and a Ph.D., both in Earth & Planetary Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.


Last Update: September 26, 2019

Video

NSN Webinar: Mars 2020 Rover: Searching for Signs of Ancient Life

The NASA Night Sky Network heard from Dr. Mitch Schultz on September 26 for an update on the Mars 2020 Rover mission to Mars.

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