Nine months till blast-off.

NASA’s latest car-sized, six-wheeled Mars rover, currently dubbed the 2020 Rover, is in the final stages of testing before launching to the red desert planet. 

On Thursday, NASA released footage showing researchers transferring the rover into a vacuum testing chamber at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. There, NASA subjected the rover to a simulation of Mars’ frigid atmospheric conditions to ensure the rover’s antennas, ground-penetrating radar, cameras, and equipment work under such extreme, extraterrestrial environs. 

NASA@NASA

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Our #Mars2020 rover was moved into a vaccuum chamber at @NASAJPL for testing in Mars-like environmental conditions. It’s set to launch in July 2020 and land in the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater in Feb. 2021. Is your name on board?
Watch: https://go.nasa.gov/2quA8Do 1,8624:30 AM – Nov 8, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy336 people are talking about this

If all goes as planned — including a dramatic descent to the Martian surface requiring rockets and a supersonic parachute — the rover will settle into Mars’ 1,640-foot-deep Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Planetary scientists suspect Jezero once held an 800-foot-deep lake some 3.5 billion years ago. This environment likely held nutrient-rich clay minerals that may have been an ideal place for Martian microbes to flourish, as they do in moist clays on Earth.   

The rover will not only analyze the now-dry crater for past signs of primitive, microbial life, but also collect samples to be taken back to Earth at a later date. 

“Getting samples from this lake-delta system will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in 2018.

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