Perseverance Rover's Landing Site: Jezero Crater

This image is of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission.
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Jezero Crater as Seen by ESA's Mars Express Orbiter: This image shows the remains of an ancient delta in Mars' Jezero Crater, which NASA's Perseverance Mars rover will explore for signs of fossilized microbial life. Full image and caption | View Rover Interactive Map

NASA chose Jezero Crater as the landing site for the Perseverance rover. Scientists believe the area was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta. The process of landing site selection involved a combination of mission team members and scientists from around the world, who carefully examined more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet. After the exhaustive five-year study of potential sites, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal, Jezero rose to the top.

Jezero Crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater lake. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed or shoreline sediments. Scientists will study how the region formed and evolved, seek signs of past life, and collect samples of Mars rock and soil that might preserve these signs.

map of the Red Planet highlights the landing site for the Perseverance rover
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Mars Landing Sites, Including Perseverance: This map of Mars shows the landing site for NASA's Perseverance rover in relation to those of previous successful Mars missions. Full image and caption ›

Jezero Crater

Jezero Crater is 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide, and is located on the western edge of a flat plain called Isidis Planitia, which lies just north of the Martian equator. The landing site is about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from Curiosity's landing site in Gale Crater.
  • Location: North of the Martian equator, in the Isidis Planitia region (18.4 degrees north / 77.5 degrees east)
  • Diameter: 28 miles (45 kilometers)

Take a Tour of Jezero Crater

Fly over Jezero Crater on a guided tour with Mars 2020 Project Scientist Ken Farley.

Jezero's Window to the Past

The white circle near the center of this image of Mars represents the location where NASA's Perseverance rover is expected to land.
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Perseverance Rover Landing Ellipse in Jezero Crater: The white circle near the center of this image of Mars represents the location where NASA's Perseverance rover is expected to land on Feb. 18, 2021. Full image and caption ›

Jezero Crater sits within the Isidis Planitia region of Mars, where an ancient meteorite impact left behind a large crater some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) across. This event is known as Isidis impact, and it forever changed the rock at the base of the crater. A later, smaller meteorite impact created the Jezero Crater within the Isidis impact basin. Scientists believe that these events likely created environments friendly to life. There is evidence of ancient river flow into Jezero, forming a delta that has long since been dry.

This image is of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission.
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Jezero Crater, Mars 2020's Landing Site
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Jezero Crater is thus likely to have been habitable in the distant past. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's CRISM instrument has revealed that the crater contains clays, which only form in the presence of water. On Earth, scientists have found such clays in the Mississippi river delta, where microbial life has been found embedded in the rock itself. This makes Jezero Crater a great place to fulfill the Mars 2020 mission's science goal of studying a potentially habitable environment that may still preserve signs of past life.

At Jezero Crater, Perseverance should be able to access rocks that are as old as 3.6 billion years. There are many ideas about what early Mars was like, and how it came to be what it is today. Accessing the ancient rock at Jezero should help answer some of these questions, and tell us more about the formation of rocky planets. It is also a great location for the rover to collect a variety of samples of Martian rock and soil.

How Features are Named at Jezero Crater

Naming things is a great way to remember them. As Perseverance explores the Martian surface, the science team will assign unofficial names to especially interesting regions and features.

A black and white image of the river delta spilling onto the Jezero Crater floor with a label for the Octavia E. Butler Landing site.
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Welcome to 'Octavia E. Butler Landing'
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The team informally named the rover's touchdown site "Octavia E. Butler Landing," after the groundbreaking science fiction author. Butler grew up in Pasadena, California near the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The first African American woman to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and the first science fiction writer to be honored with a MacArthur Fellowship, her writing inspired many in the planetary science community and beyond.

Throughout the mission, the science team will use a naming system similar to the one used to name the locations that the Curiosity rover has explored on Mars. Before Perseverance launched, the team mapped the entire landing site in Jezero Crater, dividing it into squares about 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers) on each side. These quadrangles were named for various national parks and preserves on Earth. As a nod to the diversity of its international science partners, the team used names from parks in countries that have contributed to the mission.

As the rover explores Jezero Crater, any time the team sees an interesting feature, they will name it for a corresponding location here on Earth. For example, when the Curiosity team named one of its sites "Yellowknife Bay" after a location in Canada, individual rocks and targets within that area were named after features in Canada's Yellowknife Bay.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona is located on Navajo Nation land.
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Canyon de Chelly National Monument
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The Perseverance team uses a modified version of this approach for some of their earliest exploration. The rover landed in a part of Jezero Crater that the team had named for Canyon de Chelly National Monument ("Tséyi’" in Navajo) in Arizona. Since Canyon de Chelly is the heart of Navajo Nation lands, the mission team worked directly with the Navajo Nation, who is sharing their language to help the team informally name features on Mars. Among the initial list of 50 candidate names are "Máaz" (Mars), "bidziil" (strength), "hoł nilį́" (respect), and "tséwózí bee hazhmeezh" (rolling rows of pebbles, like waves).