NASA announces next-gen Curiosity rover, heading to Mars in 2020

NASA has had quite a year. The Curiosity rover, aside from an unidentified discharge, has been an huge success. So much of a success in fact, that the next Mars rover, launching in 2020, will be based almost entirely on Curiosity's design.

The 2020 Mars mission was announced yesterday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union. There's already a loose definition of the new rover's objective: like Curiosity, it will collect and analyze samples of Martian soil. It will have the benefit of an additional eight years of instrumentation development. The search for life on Mars will continue as well, with the landing site for the new rover will being selected primarily based on the likelihood of finding evidence for any signs of Martian life, past or present. The mission will also advance, but not achieve, NASA's long-term goal of returning samples of Martian soil to Earth for human study.

The project has been granted a $1.5 billion budget. That is $1 billion less than Curiosity had, but the savings from re-appropriating Curiosity's chassis account for the decrease in funding. This funding also accounts for NASA's lower federal funding in the 2013 budget. According to 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 2030's."

NASA, via Engadget Alt and Scientific American

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