NASA unveils multiyear Mars mission plans

Dec. 4, 2012 at 7:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- NASA has announced a multiyear Mars program including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020 to join the Curiosity rover now on the Red Planet.

"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "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."

The plan to design and build a new Mars robotic science rover with a launch in 2020 comes only months after the agency announced InSight, to launch in 2016, bringing the total of NASA missions operating or being planned to study and explore Mars to seven.

The future rover will be similar in design to Curiosity, NASA said, ensuring mission costs and risks are as low as possible while still delivering a highly capable rover with a proven landing system.

"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," John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science who is also an astronaut, said.

"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."

The mission, while within the five-year budget plan in the president's Fiscal Year 2013 budget request, will be contingent on future appropriations, NASA said.

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