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NASA photo showcases landing site for Mars 2020

By
Brooks Hays
The Mars 2020 rover is set to land in Jezero Crater, which scientists estimate was once filled with water. Photo by NASA/MRO
The Mars 2020 rover is set to land in Jezero Crater, which scientists estimate was once filled with water. Photo by NASA/MRO

May 28 (UPI) -- A new photo captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and shared online this week features the landing site for the space agency's Mars 2020 mission.

The Mars 2020 rover, scheduled to launch next year, is expected to land in the Jezero Crater, located in a region of Mars known as the Syrtis Major quadrangle.

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The crater is thought to have once been filled with water, and its watery history is visible in the sedimentary formations that texture its interior surface, as well as its outer contours. The new MRO image showcases the remnants of an ancient delta where in-flowing rivers once entered, bringing water and sediment.

Channeling patterns move both to and from Jezero Crater, and in the MRO photo, fans and deltas can be seen extending out from many of the channels.

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"Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water," NASA said. "Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates."

NASA regularly relies on MRO to scout potential landing spots. As the latest MRO image makes clear, the Mars 2020 rover -- and its impressive suite of instruments -- will have plenty of interesting sedimentary structures to investigate. The rover's scientific mission will help scientists better understand Mars' watery past.

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Earlier this year, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine detailed the agency's plans for visiting the moon and Mars.

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"For the first time, we are going to cache samples on Mars," he said. "For the first time, we are going to fly a helicopter on another world with the Mars Helicopter."

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