The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is evaluating over 50 potential landing sites for its Mars rover mission that will be launched in 2020. The car-sized rover will have seven special instruments, including ones that will produce oxygen on the red planet. Earlier this year, the space agency asked astronomers where they want the rover to land on the Martian surface.

NASA

NASA reviewing 55 potential landing sites

NASA had received 55 proposals of potential landing sites. Now the agency officials working on the rover are reviewing those proposals to find out the best fit for the mission. George Tahu, program executive for the Mars 2020 rover, told Miriam Kramer of Space.com that they haven’t eliminated any of the proposals yet. In reviewing the suggested landing sites, scientists will have to keep in mind some engineering constraints.

For instance, the landing site can’t by high in altitude or too rocky. Astronomers have to work within those parameters to find the best possible landing site for the 2020 rover. The rover’s primary objective is to search for signs of past life on Mars. The Curiosity rover recently discovered that the red planet might have been habitable billions of years ago.

NASA’s new rover to look for signs of past life of Mars

The 2020 probe will dig into rocks and collect samples for the day when these samples could be sent back to the Earth so that researchers can study them in person. So, scientists want to make sure that the landing site is a place where evidence of life might have been “well-preserved.” NASA will use images captured by probes orbiting the Mars to collect more information about potential landing sites.

NASA astronomers want the 2020 rover to land at a site with many different types of rocks so that it can collect a wide variety of samples. Scientists working on the project expect finalize the landing site at least two years before launch. NASA’s 2020 rover will have six wheels, and it will weigh about a ton. That means the rover will be similar to Curiosity in design.