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Controllers are in final preparations for the Sept. 21 red planet arrival of NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile -Evolution Mission (Maven), an orbiter designed to help scientists figure out where the planet’s early atmosphere went, and with it the water that once flowed on its surface. As the Maven team gears up to take data, the winners in an international competition to place instruments on the U.S. space agency’s next Mars rover are hard at work on the imagers and spectrometers that will look for signs that the water once supported life.

The Mars 2020 rover missions will be a reprise of the Curiosity Mars rover’s ongoing expedition, which found evidence the planet’s ancient water was drinkable. Its $130 million instrument suite, announced July 31 (AW&ST Aug. 4, p. 12), is not intended to find extant life, but only the biosignatures of ancient life.

“If something hops in front of the camera, or there are some molecules—if you find a long-chain fatty acid—you would say ‘that’s really hard to do,’” says Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars exploration program.

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