NASA Picks Landing Spot for 2020 Mars Rover


InSight is heading for a spot of land called Elysium Planitia, an area that astronomers have described as "the biggest parking lot on Mars". Due to their size, they can be easily built and launched.

Once settled, the solar-powered craft will spend one Martian year - two Earth years - plumbing the depths of the planet's interior for clues to how Mars took form and, by extension, how the Earth and other rocky planets came into being.

The latest human-made visitor to Mars should arrive at its destination on Monday when NASA's InSight lander is set to touch down. Scientists will also be able to track radio signals from the stationary spacecraft, which vary based on the wobble in Mars' rotation, according to NASA.

MarCO's job will be over after the InSight has already landed.

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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. This is a largely nondescript area of Mars devoid of any major geological features.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate said, "The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology". Landing on Mars is extremely complicated-only around 40 percent of missions sent to Mars are successful. Unlike the space agency's rovers, InSight is a lander created to study an entire planet from just one spot.

Apart from the two missions in 2020, there are no plans for the existing orbiters yet. This was announced Wednesday at a press conference, broadcast on the NASA website, a representative of the jet propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (California) Rob Grover. While this is not the first time a USA -built spacecraft will visit Mars, the InSight would be the first to conduct underground exploration. Using its seven-foot-long robotic arm and a suite of instruments, it will drill a 16-feet hole into the surface of the Red Planet. It also has seismometer and thermometer in order to measure the frequency and magnitude of marsquakes.