NASA is building a new rover to look for life on Mars

Space is the final frontier. And if NASA has its way, its new Mars rover may be able to go where no man has gone before and find signs of ancient life – and not just ones that lived a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

NASA is working on the next version of its Curiosity Mars rover, according to a announcement made this week. The new rover will look a lot like its predecessor, but will have a very different mission, including looking for signs of ancient life in terrain that is presently inhospitable, but had lakes and rivers 3.5 billion years ago.

The rover, dubbed Mars 2020, will look for signs of microbial life  using tools such as an x-ray spectrometer that can look for spots the size of a gain of table salt. It will also have an ultraviolet laser used to detect what NASA describes as “the ‘glow’ from excited rings of carbon atoms.” There will also be ground-penetrating radar to look under the surface of Mars, including mapping layers of rock, water and ice up to 30 feet deep, all designed to help NASA stay on target.

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