NASA confirmed that its upcoming Mars 2020 mission will focus on the search for alien life on the Red Planet. According to the space agency, it has already identified a likely location where life on Mars may have thrived in.

NASA’s future mission to Mars will be part of its Artemis program, which will include a series of spaceflights to the Moon and the Red Planet. For an upcoming mission, the agency plans to deploy a new rover to Mars.

According to NASA, the Mars 2020 rover is expected to reach the planet in February 2021. One of the sites the agency has selected for the rover to explore is the Jezero crater.

As explained by NASA, the rim of this crater contains mineral deposits known as carbonates. NASA believes this region once hosted a liquid lake 3.5 billion years ago. The agency explained that these carbonates could contain traces of microbial life that once existed in the lakes of the Red Planet.

According to lead researcher Briony Horgan of the Purdue University in Indiana, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter already confirmed the presence of carbonates in Jezero crater through images collected by its Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

Images previously collected by this instrument allowed NASA to create a map showing sites where carbonate deposits or “bathtub rings” are located within the crater.

"CRISM spotted carbonates here years ago, but we only recently noticed how concentrated they are right where a lakeshore would be," Horgan said in a statement. "We're going to encounter carbonate deposits in many locations throughout the mission, but the bathtub ring will be one of the most exciting places to visit."

Ken Wilford, NASA’s deputy project scientist for the Mars 2020 mission believes that these sites were able to preserve traces of carbonates along the rim of the crater. Through the upcoming mission, Williford hopes to explore these areas and collect samples that will be analyzed in laboratories on Earth.

"The possibility that the 'marginal carbonates' formed in the lake environment was one of the most exciting features that led us to our Jezero landing site. Carbonate chemistry on an ancient lakeshore is a fantastic recipe for preserving records of ancient life and climate," he explained.

"We're eager to get to the surface and discover how these carbonates formed,” Williford continued.

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS/JHU-APL