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The European Space Agency has narrowed its choice of landing sites for its ExoMars 2020 rover mission.
Two ancient sites on Mars that hosted an abundance of water in the planet’s early history have been recommended as the final candidates for the landing site of the 2020 ExoMars rover and surface science platform: Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis.
A primary technical constraint is that the landing site be at a suitably low level, so that there is sufficient atmosphere to help slow the landing module’s parachute descent. Then, the 120 x 19 km landing ellipse should not contain features that could endanger the landing, the deployment of the surface platform ramps for the rover to exit, and driving of the rover. This means scrutinising the region for steep slopes, loose material and large rocks.
Oxia Planum was selected in 2015 for further detailed evaluation. Although not yet complete, the investigation so far indicates that the region would meet the various constraints.
They will spend the next year evaluating both sites, though based on the press release it sounds as if Oxia Planum is the favorite.