Military Embedded Systems

New NASA Mars rover mission in 2020 despite budget cuts


December 06, 2012

Brandon Lewis

Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

New NASA Mars rover mission in 2020 despite budget cuts
Curiosity rover self-portrait courtesy NASA

WASHINGTON. A new Mars rover will be launched in 2020, officials at NASA announced on Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union. The unmanned vehicle’s landing system and chassis will be based heavily off of the Curiosity rover, allowing the agency to save roughly $1 billion in design expenses off of the current rover’s $2.5 billion price tag.

Proposed 2013 federal budget cuts significantly reduce the NASA Mars program, which called for a rethink of the 2020 and other Mars missions. However, the agency should be able to carry out the mission under the current budget scenario thanks to scale backs and fundamental replanning according to John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for Science at NASA.

"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."

With the eventual goal of retrieving samples from Mars for analysis on Earth rather than on the Red Planet, NASA intends to “advance sample handling, coring, analysis of samples to determine caching [of the samples]” said Grunsfeld. A “science definition team” will rectify details of the mission over the coming months, expected to announce an instrument RFP by summer 2013.

In preparation for the 2020 mission, NASA will continue contributions to the European Trace Gas Orbiter and ExoMars rover, scheduled to launch in 2016 and 2018, respectively. "We have a whole new Mars mission,” said Grunsfeld, “and I'm very excited about that."


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