NASA's been planning for the Mars 2020 rover for a long time now, back when Curiosity was just making its way to the red planet. Now, the agency has finally chosen seven scientific instruments that'll be equipped on the new rover out of the 58 proposals submitted by researchers from all over the globe. These instruments were chosen based on their potential to discover how humans can live off the extraterrestrial land by using the natural resources available, and also by their capacity to unearth any danger posed by Martian dust to future human explorers.
One of the scientific payloads is called Mastcam-Z, a camera with panoramic, stereoscopic and zoom abilities. Another called SuperCam can analyze the chemical and mineral composition of rocks, while the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) can determine the elemental composition of surface minerals. The third one called Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) uses UV light to detect organic compounds, while Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) will attempt to produce oxygen from Martian carbon dioxide. Then there's the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) that will monitor the environmental conditions on the planet, and finally, the Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX) equipped with a ground-penetrating radar that'll give us a glimpse of what's beneath the planet's surface.
All these equipment will cost $130 million to develop and will be the main difference between the upcoming rover and Curiosity, as Mars 2020's designed to look similar to the latter. Before NASA sends off Mars 2020, though, it still has to go through the InSight mission, which will explore Mars' interior in 2016. The agency still also has to find a way to keep communication between the planets going if it wants the new rover to be able to transmit data back home.