A Mars rover is an automated motor vehicle that propels itself across the surface of the planet Mars upon arrival. Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers : they examine more territory, and they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to weather winter months, and they can advance the knowledge of how to perform very remote robotic vehicle control.
One experimental design, not proposed for any actual mission, is:
Many Mars Design Reference Mission include rovers as do some Mars sample return (see MAX-C )
NASA distinguishes between "mission" objectives and "science" objectives. Mission objectives are related to progress in space technology and development processes. Science objectives are met by the instruments during their mission in space.
The details of rover science vary according to equipment carried. The primary goal of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers is to discover "the history of water on Mars".  (The presence of usable water would greatly reduce manned mission cost.)
Jezero Crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. Water filled and drained away from the crater on at least two occasions. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater after the lake dried up. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed sediments.
Volcanic activity once warmed NE Syrtis. Underground heat sources made hot springs flow and surface ice melt. Microbes could have flourished here in liquid water that was in contact with minerals. The layered terrain of NE Syrtis holds a rich record of the interactions that occurred between water and minerals over successive periods of early Mars history.
Potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover could change as mission science and engineering considerations evolve. Ultimately, NASA will choose a place with a history of liquid water that also meets the Mars 2020 mission landing site criteria:
See also: Science Evaluation Criteria for the Mars 2020 Landing Site
The number of landing sites was reduced from about 30 to eight at the second landing site workshop in 2015. ›› Read full feature
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