NASA’s highly anticipated Mars 2020 — which will look for signs of ancient or current alien life on the red planet — will launch into space in July of 2020. The spaceflight company responsible for getting the little dude up into space and en route to Mars will be United Launch Services LLC (ULA), NASA announced Thursday.
ULA will aim to conduct the launch via an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Mars 2020 will be tasked with a very wide array of different research, including geological investigations, scanning the surface for signs of potential habitability, and digging into the ground for evidence of ancient Martian life.
The most exciting part about Mars 2020 is that it will acquire samples of the red planet’s rocks to potentially bring back to Earth on a future mission.
Although Mars 2020 will be a profound upgrade to Curiosity, the latter will still be used to investigate other parts of the Martian landscape for as long as it stays operational.
The total cost to launch Mars 2020 will be about $243 million, which includes the launch services contract awarded to ULA. The company has quietly accrued a string of commercial spaceflight successes in the last few years — including the launch of the Delta IV Heavy, the world’s largest rocket so far. That achievement was likely a significant boost for the company’s chances to earn the Mars 2020 contract.