Sunday, December 9, 2012

2030: A Manned Mars Odyssey

"The public is no longer interested in robotic missions -- they simply are not compelling," said Randa Milliron, CEO of Interorbital Systems. "Without human presence, the endless line of robots to Mars on billion-dollar missions is simply a waste of mankind's time and resources. The course of action is obvious: 
Buoyed by the recent success of its Mars rover Curiosity, NASA on Tuesday announced plans for a multiyear Mars program that includes launching a new robotic science rover in 2020. Even more significantly, it's also eyeing the possibility of a manned expedition just a decade later.

"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."
Mars Gale Crater
This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light.(Photo: NASA)

A Multifaceted Push

This latest announcement further extends NASA's Mars focus, which already encompasses numerous efforts:
  • the current Curiosity and Opportunity rovers;
  • 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 providing a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
The new rover planned for 2020 will be based on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) architecture that carried the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface this summer. Details regarding its payload and the scientific instruments included will be openly decided, NASA said, beginning with the establishment of a science definition team that will be tasked to outline the mission's scientific objectives.

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