We are starting a new tradition in 2020 where every Monday we highlight a particular science or space exploration mission. Sometimes we will revisit significant missions in space history, and other times we will explore exciting future missions.

The first mission we are featuring is Mars 2020, NASA’s next mission to the red planet.

Mars 2020 will be the first mission to look for signs of past life on Mars. The launch window is currently planned for July 17 – Aug. 5, 2020. The mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

If the mission launches on schedule, the spacecraft will land on Mars in February 2021 in the Jezero Crater. NASA anticipates the mission duration at one Mars year, which is about 687 Earth days.

This mission will launch a new rover to the red planet. The rover will collect and store samples of rock and soil on the surface for a potential future mission to bring back to Earth.

This rover, which isn’t yet named, is similar to NASA’s Curiosity rover, but it has a new science and technology toolbox. It has a more capable wheel design, and it is the first to carry a drill for core sampling. It also has a larger “hand,” or turret to accommodate the new functions and tools.

The rover also has new software allowing it to manage all of its activities more efficiently and provide more independence. This allows the rover to cover more ground without consulting controllers on Earth so frequently.

Check out the live feed below of scientists and engineers building and testing the rover in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Learn more about NASA’s plans for the red planet in our Mission Mars exhibit.

Click here to learn more about the Mars 2020 Mission.