Scientists Explore Australian Outback As a Testbed for Mars

Scientists with NASA's Mars 2020 mission and the European-Russian ExoMars mission traveled to the Australian Outback. (Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech)
Scientists with NASA's Mars 2020 mission and the European-Russian ExoMars mission traveled to the Australian Outback. (Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

This week, scientists from NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 mission joined their counterparts from the joint European-Russian ExoMars mission in an expedition to the Australian Outback, one of the most remote, arid regions on the planet.

Both teams came to hone their research techniques before their missions launch to the Red Planet next summer in search of signs of past life on Mars.

The researchers know that any proof of past life on Mars will more than likely be almost microscopic in size. That’s where the Pilbara region of North West Australia comes in. Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said:

The field trip was led by Martin Van Kranendonk, a professor of geology and astrobiology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Mitch Schulte, Mars 2020 program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said:

The first joint science trip for the Mars 2020 and ExoMars teams will conclude Aug. 24, when the scientists will pack up their field notes, fold up their tents, and return home. But the results from this astrobiology expedition will have positive, long-lasting ramifications in humanity’s hunt for evidence that we are not alone in the universe.

Scientists with NASA's Mars 2020 mission and the European-Russian ExoMars mission traveled to the Australian Outback to hone their research techniques before their missions launch to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020. The trip was designed to help them better understand how to search for signs of ancient life on Mars. JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists with NASA’s Mars 2020 mission and the European-Russian ExoMars mission traveled to the Australian Outback to hone their research techniques before their missions’ launches to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020. The trip was designed to help them better understand how to search for signs of ancient life on Mars. JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. (Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The launch window for Mars 2020 opens on July 17, 2020. It will land at Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The launch window for ExoMars opens July 25, 2020. It will land on the Red Planet in March 2021.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions, including to the Moon, to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The agency plans to establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans. The ExoMars program is a joint endeavor between the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

Provided by: Dc Agle, Jet Propulsion Laboratory [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!     

Recycling in Style: Nespresso Turning Coffee Pods Into Bicycles
'The Pioneers': A Book Exploring the Lives of Settlers in Early Ohio