LOS ANGELES              -              Members of the media were invited to glimpse NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and speak with experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on Friday.

It was the media’s only opportunity to see the rover inside the clean room prior to its shipment to Cape Canaveral in Florida in February next year.

“It was a great opportunity for the media not only to see our work close up, but to meet some of the women and men who have dedicated several years of their careers ensuring this next Mars rover lives up to the legacy of those that were built here before it,” said David Gruel, the Mars 2020 assembly, test and launch operations manager at JPL.

The clean room is where all four of NASA’s Mars rovers were constructed: the microwave-oven-sized Sojourner, which landed in 1997; the golf-cart-sized Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004; and the Curiosity rover, about the size of a Mini Cooper, which has been exploring the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp region since 2012.

Scheduled to launch in July or August 2020, the Mars 2020 rover will land in Jezero Crater of Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. It will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

In the coming weeks, engineers and technicians will pack the 2020 rover into a specially-designed container. After it arrives at the Cape, Mars 2020 will undergo final processing and testing before launch.

Mars 2020 is part of a larger NASA program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.