NASA Plans New Rover Mission To Mars In 2020

Curiosity Ill Being Lowered By SkyCrane

NASA is planning a new rover mission to Mars which will launch in 2020.  NASA expects to reuse many of the components of the Curiosity which have performed so well.  It was announced at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the world’s largest annual gathering of Earth and planetary scientists.  John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science said, “The new rover’s going to be based on the [Curiosity] chassis, and it’s really building on the tremendous success of the engineering of Curiosity.”  Grunsfeld continued, “we’re going to put out a letter to colleagues to ask for folks who want to be in the science definition team. And the idea is to work through the winter and spring, and have an announcement of opportunity [in] mid-summer for actual instruments, because while 2020 might seem a long way off, it’s really not. Curiosity was about a decade in the works.”  The 2020 Rover will use the same entry, decent, and landing system (EDL) as the Curiosity, again incorporating the “SkyCrane” that proved so successful in lowering the Curiosity in to the Gale Crater.  Despite budget cuts, which were mainly due to the end of the Space Shuttle Program, the all out approach to explore the red planet will continue.  Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator 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.”  He praised President Obama and his administration for being wholly committed to the Mars exploration program.  The plan to design and build on a new Rover comes on the heels of NASA announcing InSight, which will launch in 2016 and bring the total number of missions exploring our Martian neighbor to seven.  In terms of cost, Grunsfeld stated that, “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.”  Of course the mission funding is contingent on it the President’s budget being approved and future appropriations, but that appears almost certain. The ultimate goal of all these missions and exploration, is a manned mission to Mars by the 2030’s.

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