"It also would be the first multicellular organism to grow, live and die on another planet," Smith said.
The 2020 Mars rover is based heavily on NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed in August 2012 to determine if the Red Planet has ever been capable of supporting microbial life. Curiosity has already answered that question in the affirmative, finding that a site called Yellowknife Bay was, indeed, habitable billions of years ago.
NASA wants the 2020 rover to search for signs of past Mars life, and collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. But the space agency is still working out the details of the robot's mission - for example, figuring out what instruments it will carry.
NASA received 58 instrument proposals for the rover during its call for submissions, which lasted from September 2013 until January of this year. Final selections should be made by June or so, NASA officials have said.
Curiosity totes 10 instruments around Mars, so the 2020 rover may end up with a similar amount of scientific gear.