Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | 4:36 PM
“I am really excited that the MARS program is going to continue. After facing a nearly 40% cut earlier this year, we have now won an important victory – it’s future is secure. I am going to fight to make sure we get the most out of this mission.
“This important step affirms the Administration’s commitment to continued robotic exploration of Mars, and to ensuring that the United States remains a global leader in cutting edge science and space exploration. I look forward to working with NASA, the Administration, and my colleagues on the implementation of this plan. 2020, as well as 2018, are critical launch windows for the Mars program, and I will continue to push to make sure we take the most advantage of this window and the opportunities it offers for further discovery.”
According to NASA, in addition to Curiosity and Opportunity, the two rovers currently exploring the Martian surface, the planned portfolio will include two NASA spacecraft and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars; and participation in ESA’s 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing “Electra” telecommunication radios to ESA’s 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
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, which will launch in 2016, bringing a total of seven NASA missions operating or being planned to study and explore our Earth-like neighbor. The 2020 mission will constitute another step toward being responsive to high-priority science goals and the president’s challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s.
The future rover development and design will be based on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) architecture that successfully carried the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface this summer. This will ensure mission costs and risks are as low as possible, while still delivering a highly capable rover with a proven landing system. The mission will constitute a vital component of a broad portfolio of Mars exploration missions in development for the coming decade.