NASA reveals plan to send new mars rover in 2020
5 December 2012: Encouraged by the success of Curiosity rover mission, today NASA announced multi-year plan to study Mars. This plan includes a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020.
"The action right now is on the surface, and that's where we want to be, "said proud NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.
Engineers will use proven technology of Curiosity to ensure success of the new Mars mission. The new rover is expected to cost less than Curiosity. An independent estimate gives the cost to be around $1.5 billion, which is significantly lower than the cost of Curiosity ($2.5 billion).
Many decisions are need to be taken before planning the final version of the proposed Mars mission. The landing spot and type of instruments are not decided yet and NASA will still in the process to take decision on these vital issues. NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld said this rover may kick start a campaign to return Martian soil and rocks to Earth. This is a long standing dream for many scientists and will be key to search evidences of past life. Curiosity doesn't have that capability.
An expert team will debate in the coming months whether the new rover should have the ability to drill into Martian rocks and store pieces for a future pickup - either by human or another spacecraft.
NASA is under orders by USA president Obama to send astronauts in Mars orbit followed by a landing by 2030s. 2020 Mars robotic mission will be a stepping stone to United States commitment of sending human being in Mars.
The plan includes two NASA spacecrafts, the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars. It also mention the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere. Exploration of deep interior of Mars will be possible with the relatively low cost Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission which will take the first look into the interior of the planet. It will launch in 2016.
NASA will also participate in European space agencies 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions. NASA plans to provide "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and to work on a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
The future rover design and development of NASA will take place on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that successfully carried the Curiosity rover mission to the Martian surface.
This announcement shows the commitment of American authority to keep leading role in exploring Mars. "The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program", said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden."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", he further added.