Jul 30, 2014 10:58 PM EDT
The instruments planned for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's next rover mission to Mars will be unveiled Thursday, July 31, starting at noon Eastern Daylight Saving Time, by way of a live broadcast on NASA Television and the space agency's official Website.
Staged at NASA's national headquarters in Washington, D.C., the unveiling event is scheduled to include: John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate; Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate; Michael Meyer, lead scientist with the agency's Mars Exploration Program; and Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA's headquarters.
NASA indicated in a news announcement earlier in the year that it had received 58 proposals - twice the average number of proposals submitted to instrument competitions for past similar missions.
During the unveiling, members of the public can join the conversation via Twitter, at #JourneyToMars, and asking questions using #askNASA.
Streaming video, schedules and downlink information for NASATV are found at: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.
A mission overview posted at the NASA.gov site states that over the last two decades, "missions flown by NASA's Mars Exploration Program have shown us that Mars is a rocky, cold, and dry planet underneath a dusty,
sometimes volatile pink sky...Using a mix of detailed measurements from orbital and landed missions,
scientists have discovered hints in today's Martian wasteland that the Red Planet was once an active
place where volcanoes raged, meteors plowed deep craters, and flash floods rushed over the land."
So, when considered together, the statement continues, such natural processes on Mars "point to past
wet conditions of sufficient longevity to support the development of microbial life."
As such, NASA's proposed Mars 2020 mission would build upon the many discoveries acquired by "the Curiosity Mars rover and the two Mars Exploration Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity - by taking the next key steps in our understanding of Mars' potential as a habitat for past or present life, the agency said. "Searching for scientific clues to answer this question means delving into the planet's geologic and climate history to find out how, when, and why Mars underwent dramatic changes to become the harsh planet we observe today."
Officials at NASA explain the Mars 2020 rover would be designed to look for signs
of past life on the Red Planet, collect and store soil and rock samples that could be returned to Earth in the future and test new technology that would help advance future robotic and human exploration missions.
The mission would be on track to Land on Mars in February 2021 at a site to be determined and then spend at least one Martian year - which is equal to two Earth years - exploring the landing site area.
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