NASA’s Curiosity rover is rolling around Mars, and has provided researchers with all kinds of data on the Red Planet, not to mention the cache of photos. While Curiosity is busy doing its thing, NASA is already working on its next Mars-destined rover, and it recently showed off a detailed render of the contraption. According to the space agency, the rover’s design has passed “a major development milestone” and will soon be getting its finalized design.
Assuming everything goes as planned, NASA will launch its next Mars rover in the summer of 2020. If it hits that launch time frame, the rover will then land on the Red Planet is February 2021, taking Curiosity’s place to be the then-current Mars rover. This Mars 2020 rover will be tasked with exploring a part of Mars said to have an “ancient environment” that may hold signs of past microbial life.
As with Curiosity, the Mars 2020 rover will collect samples of Martian rocks and soil; NASA says the rover will create a cache of these substances on the Mars’ surface so that any future mission has the option of sending them back to Earth. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate acting associate admin Geoffrey Yoder explained:
The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth. This mission marks a significant milestone in NASA’s Journey to Mars — to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars, and to advance our goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.