Mission Overview
NASA has plans to launch a new robotic science rover in 2020. The proposed mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. The highly capable rover would be based on NASA’s successful Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission architecture, including its Curiosity rover and proven landing system.

The budget for this mission is contingent on future appropriations. The project will assess options for infusing new capabilities through investments by NASA programs (including the Astrobiology Program), and contributions from international partners.

Relevance to Astrobiology
The Mars 2020 mission will address key questions about the potential for life on Mars. The mission will study aspects of the geologic and climatic history of Mars that are relevant to questions surrounding habitability in the planet’s past and present.

Many of the potential goals for the Mars 2020 mission that are currently being developed are directly relevant to Astrobiology. These include:

- Determine whether life ever arose on Mars

- Seeking signs of past life (biosignatures) in the geological record

- Characterize the climate of Mars

- Characterize the geology of Mars

NASA Astrobiology Involvement
Mars 2020 is the next step in NASA’s robotic exploration of Mars, a primary target of astrobiology research in the Solar System, and will build on the accomplishments of MSL. Many researchers supported by elements of the Astrobiology Program are involved in the design and development of the Mars 2020 mission and its scientific goals.

The Astrobiology Program also funds the development of instruments that could be included on the Mars 2020 mission.

The Astrobiologists
From the NAI-VPL Team, Pamela Conrad is a co-Investigator for SHERLOC and MEDA instruments, and a member of the landing site working group, and John Baross contributed to the Mars planetary protection reports.

Rohit Bhartia of the NAI-USC Team is the Deputy PI for the SHERLOC instrument. William Abbey, Ken Nealson, Greg Wanger, and Bethany Ehlmann are Co-Investigators. Ehlmann is also a Co-Investigator for the MastCam-Z instrument and Abigail Allwood is the PI for the PIXL instrument on Mars 2020.

David Des Marais PI of the NAI-NASA Ames Team served as part of the science definition team.