New Horizons in Science

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New rovers en route to Mars: What Perseverance, InSight, and Tianwen-1 will teach us about the possibilities for life on the red planet

Topic: Planetary Exploration
Mars 2020 rover with sample tubes
Monday, October 19, 2020 -
4:00pm to 4:30pm


  • Nina Lanza (Speaker) Team lead, Space and Planetary Exploration, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Katie Stack Morgan (Speaker) Research scientist and Mars 2020 deputy project scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • W. Wayt Gibbs (Moderator) New Horizons in Science program director, CASW


Three new spacecraft blasted off for Mars this summer. Their arrival in February 2021 will open a new chapter of exploration of the Red Planet and the investigations into its ability to support life past and future, via human missions.
In this session, we'll hear first-hand from scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Los Alamos National Lab who worked on the new Mars Perseverance rover mission about how it will gather soil and rock samples for eventual return to Earth, transform carbon dioxide it finds on the surface into breathable oxygen, attempt the first controlled aircraft flights on another planet, and rove around a dry lake bed zapping rocks with lasers to search for biosignatures of ancient Martian microbes.
We'll also get details on Tianwen-1 ("Questions to Heaven"), which is on course to be China's first successful mission to Mars. The spacecraft will deploy an orbiter, lander, and rover to scan the planet for buried deposits of frozen water while also mapping the structure of its interior and ionosphere.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates' Hope mission will track winds, weather, and giant duststorms over a full cycle of Martian seasons. This session will prepare us to cover the many Mars stories to come in 2021.
Mars 2020 rover with sample tubes (artist's concept). Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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