Mars 2020

Search­ing for traces of past life

Did life ever exist on Mars? That is what NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is attempting to determine. To do this, the Perseverance rover is searching for traces of past microbial life in Jezero Crater; these are referred to as biosignatures.

A lake existed in the crater more than 3.5 billion years ago. Evidence for this is provided by two ancient river deltas in its interior, in the deposits of which numerous water-containing minerals have been detected. These minerals have a particularly high potential for preserving possible biosignatures. With the help of 23 cameras and seven scientific instruments, the rover is analysing the geology of the landing site and looking for signs of past life in rocks and sediments.

Perseverance will also collect rock samples for the first time using a drill. It has a total of 43 tubes for collecting 38 samples, which can be filled with drill cores from depths of up to 20 centimetres. Five 'witness tubes' contain reference materials from Earth to detect possible contaminants. The rover will deposit the sealed sample tubes at a suitable location on Mars. Two future missions planned jointly by NASA and ESA will then bring the 13-millimetre-thick and 60-millimetre-long samples, sealed in their tubes, to Earth in the early 2030s for in-depth analysis. Terrestrial laboratories have different, more varied possibilities for examining the Martian samples than the instruments carried on a rover, which must inevitably be limited in their complexity and size. In addition, investigations can be repeated even after many years.

Perseverance has another first in store – a helicopter drone for testing the first powered flight on another planet.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is represented in the science team of the Mars 2020 mission. In the MASTCAM-Z experiment, scientists are involved in tactical and strategic image planning as well as in the scientific evaluation and processing of the data. The many years of expertise of DLR planetary researchers in Berlin, acquired with the camera technology on board the Mars Express, Dawn, MASCOT/Hayabusa2 and Philae/Rosetta missions, is incorporated into the processing of the stereo camera images. Likewise, DLR is involved in the analysis of measurements with the SuperCam spectrometer as well as in the calibration of the humidity sensors and the data analysis of the MEDA instrument.


Mission Data


30 July 2020

Launch location

Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA)

Launch vehicle

ULA Atlas V-541 (two stages)

Mission duration

One Mars year (corresponds to two Earth years)

Mission control centre

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

Landing on Mars

21:55 CET on 18 February 2021

Landing site

Jezero Crater

Perseverance rover



1025 kilograms

Dimensions (length x width x height)

3 x 2.7 m x 2.1 metres

Number of experiments


Maximum speed

4.2 centimetres per second

Power speed

110 watt radioisotope thermoelectric generator


  • RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars‘ Subsurface Experiment)
  • PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry)
  • SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals)
  • MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer)

Technology demonstrators

  • MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment)
  • Ingenuity helicopter




Background articles


Falk Dambowsky

Head of Media Relations, Editor
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-3959