Understand how life emerged on Earth and possibly elsewhere in our Solar System

Could life have ever found a foothold in any niche on another planet such as Mars, or on the moons of the giant gaseous outer planets? JPL is studying high-priority future missions that would characterize Jupiter’s moon Europa to assess its potentially life-friendly environments, and could potentially return samples from Mars to close in on whether that planet is habitable and could have ever hosted life.


The Mars Exploration Directorate manages the activities and projects that are assigned to JPL by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The Program applies a successive and integrated mission approach to undertake detailed scientific explorations of Mars using orbital remote sensing and robotic landers. It has had a continuous presence of both landers/rovers and orbiters since the early 2000s.

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The Solar System Exploration Directorate studies the Solar System by investigating the formation and evolution of Solar System bodies, searching for evidence of life on the ocean moons of Saturn and Jupiter, and undertaking detailed analyses of Solar System environments in preparation for possible future human spaceflight missions.

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The Interplanetary Network Directorate (IND) is JPL’s programmatic focal point for deep space communications, navigation, and mission operations, and performs world-class Solar System science and astrophysics. The IND is responsible for the design, development, operation, and services for three of NASA’s key mission-enabling systems: the Deep Space Network (DSN), the Advanced Multi-Mission Operations System (AMMOS), and the Planetary Data System (PDS) support nodes.

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