NASA this week announced that it has plans to send a new robotic science rover to Mars in 2020. The news comes just after the agency revealed the results of a full analysis of Martian soil by Mars rover Curiosity.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," said Charles Bolden, NASA administrator. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
In addition to a new rover, NASA has plans for the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers; the two NASA spacecraft and one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; next year's launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight) mission; and the European Space Agency's (ESA) 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, which also include a rover.
The plan for another Mars rover is another step toward President Obama's challenge to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. The new rover will be designed based on the success of NASA's latest rover, Curiosity. The goal is to keep costs and risks low by using proven landing systems and capabilities that have already been demonstrated. Mission objectives, payload, and science instruments for the 2020 rover will be ironed out by the Science Mission Directorate.
"The challenge to restructure the Mars Exploration Program has turned from the seven minutes of terror for the Curiosity landing to the start of seven years of innovation," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "This mission concept fits within the current and projected Mars exploration budget, builds on the exciting discoveries of Curiosity, and takes advantage of a favorable launch opportunity."
(Image courtesy NASA)