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NASA robot to explore Jezero Crater for signs of past life in 2020

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By Amy Chung
NASA's rpver will explore the lake crater of Jezero in 2020
NASA's rpver will explore the lake crater of Jezero in 2020   -   Copyright  NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS/Brown University

After a five-year search, NASA has chosen the Jezero Crater for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission to look for signs of past life.

The North American Space Agency says it will launch the uncrewed robot, about the size of a car, in July 2020 to explore the Red Planet.

Scientists believe Mars was once like Earth. The rover will be tasked with collecting samples, which it will safely keep in a "cache" to later be brought back to Earth for analysis by scientists.

Jezero, located north of Mars' equator, has land formations stretching back 3.6 billion years and was chosen from more than 60 locations because of its rich terrain and because its lake-delta system contains at least five different kinds of rock, including clay and carbonates that may reveal evidence to show signs of past, microbial life.

"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionise how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.

The landing zone for the 2020 mission will be 50%  smaller than the landing of NASA's Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 21012.