• NASA's Curiosity rover is currently the only one roaming the Martian surface
  • Next summer, the Mars 2020 rover will be on the way to Mars
  • The two rovers look similar but they have different missions
  • Mars 2020's mission is to look for actual signs of past life
  • Mars 2020 will bring tools that will help future manned missions to Mars

By next summer, NASA’s Curiosity Rover won’t be the only one roaming the Martian landscape. It has been the only roaming rover on Mars since Opportunity died sue to a massive planetary dust storm in 2018, but the Mars 2020 rover will soon be its new companion.

Although the two rovers look very similar, they will actually perform different functions. Since it landed in 2012, Curiosity rover has been roaming the Gale Crater, which it has since discovered had a lake billions of years ago. Today it continues to roam the area to find clues about the environment.

On the other hand, Mars 2020 will look at the Jezero Crater, another Martian landscape that was formed by water. While Curiosity’s primary mission is to look for signs that Mars once had the right environmental conditions to host life, Mars 2020 will look for biosignatures and actual signs of past life.

Mars 2020 is also larger and heavier than Curiosity, particularly because its tools are also heavier. For instance, even though the robotic arms on both rovers have the same reach, the turrets on Curiosity’s arm weighs 65 pounds, while the turrets on Mars 2020’s arm weighs 90 pounds because it has larger instruments as well as a larger drill. With it, instead of pulverizing the stones just as Curiosity does, Mars 2020 will cut the rocks into intact samples that will be kept in storage.

Further, compared to Curiosity that has 17 cameras, four of which are colored, Mars 2020 has 23 mostly-colored cameras. It also has two “ears” that will capture the sounds on Mars from its first landing. Wheels-wise, Mars 2020’s wheels are made from the same material as Curiosity’s but engineers have made changes to the design based on the issues that Curiosity had with the sharp rocks putting quite a bit of pressure on its wheels.

The Mars 2020 is also capable of calculating the path five times faster than Curiosity, allowing it to cover more ground and gather more samples.

Together, the two rovers will roam the Martian landscape with the mission of helping us understand the Red Planet better, especially for future manned missions.

In fact, Mars 2020 will bring space suit samples along for the ride so that scientists can study how it will degrade in the Martian environment, while an oxygen generator will also test the technology that astronauts can use to make their own rocket fuel in Mars.

Apart from Curiosity, Mars 2020 and Opportunity, Mars also once hosted NASA’s Mars Sojourner rover for the Pathfinder mission in 1997, as well as the Spirit rover, which came with Opportunity in 2004.

Today, Curiosity is joined by the Insight lander that only recently celebrated its first “land-iversary” on Mars.

Curiosity Rover And Mars 2020
Although they look similar, Curiosity Rover and Mars 2020 have very different functions. NASA/JPL-Caltech