Mars 2020 Mission Contributions to
NASA's Mars Exploration Program Science Goal




This image shows a white, frothy stream flowing down a canyon between tall, red, volcanic cliffs.
NASA's strategy for scientific investigations on Mars is to "seeks signs of life."
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Goal 1: Determine whether life ever existed on Mars

The mission of the Mars 2020 rover focuses on surface-based studies of the Martian environment, seeking preserved signs of biosignatures in rock samples that formed in ancient Martian environments with conditions that might have been favorable to microbial life.

It is the first rover mission designed to seek signs of past microbial life. Earlier rovers first focused on and confirmed that Mars once had habitable conditions.

[more on Goal 1 for the entire Mars Exploration Program]




This image shows layered, red cliffs rising up from a flat, brown surface. The cliff surface slants from right to left, with the nearest cliffs on the right-hand side of the image and those farther away toward the left. Pinkish-tan clouds hover above the crests of the cliffs.
Scientists will determine if environmental conditions at the Mars 2020 landing site on Mars were ever capable of supporting microbial life. The landing site that is eventually chosen might include layers of rock where once flowed or stood, as portrayed in this artist's concept.
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Goal 2: Characterize the Climate of Mars

Past Martian climate conditions are a focus of the Mars 2020 rover mission. The rover's instruments are looking for evidence of ancient habitable environments where microbial life could have existed in the past.


[more on Goal 2 for the entire Mars Exploration Program]




This image shows a round crater exposing horizontal layers in its walls. Around it is an undulating brown surface. In both the foreground, in the lower right corner of the image, and in the backround, forming the horizon, are cliffs exposing horizontal layers of rock. The sky is a typical shade of martian peachy pink.
Layers of rock in craters and mountains, as shown in this artist's concept, contain a record of the geologic past on Mars.
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Goal 3: Characterize the Geology of Mars

The Mars 2020 rover is designed to study the rock record to reveal more about the geologic processes that created and modified the Martian crust and surface through time. Each layer of rock on the Martian surface contains a record of the environment in which it was formed. The rover seeks evidence of rocks that formed in water and that preserve evidence of organics, the chemical building blocks of life.
[more on Goal 3 for the entire Mars Exploration Program]




This image shows a backward-looking view of an astronaut in a white spacesuit hiking over reddish sand and rocks on Mars. A gray plume of smoke rises from a fumarole behind the astronaut.
The challenge of future human exploration of Mars drives the development of new capabilities that would support astronauts traveling to and from, and surviving on the Red Planet.
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Goal 4: Prepare for Human Exploration

The Mars 2020 rover is demonstrating key technologies for using natural resources in the Martian environment for life support and fuel. It is also monitoring environmental conditions so mission planners understand better how to protect future human explorers.

This science goal relates to national space policy for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. Similar to the history of the exploration of Earth's moon, robotic missions to Mars provide a crucial understanding of the environment and test innovative technologies for future human exploration.

Investments in Mars 2020 technologies include contributions from NASA's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate and Space Technology Program (STP) as part of NASA's long-term efforts to develop future capabilities for human space exploration.

[more on Goal 4 for the entire Mars Exploration Program]