NASA has announced plans to build a new rover to land on Mars in 2020. NASA’s current estimated cost for the new rover is $1.5 billion. It will be built based on the design developed for the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August this year.
Curiosity has an on-board lab, but the plan is for the 2020 rover to store samples to eventually send back to Earth. It could also access parts of the planet that Curiosity couldn’t because of when and where it landed. In Earth exploration, the most interesting places are harder to get to, and that’s the case on Mars as well, NASA science chief John Grunsfeld explained at a press conference.
This mission is a step towards sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. If you can send a rover to Mars, collect samples, and find a way to bring those back, that’s a model for sending a human to Mars and back, Grunsfeld said. For more on where this fits in with NASA's other plans, check out Alan Boyle's post over at the Cosmic Log blog.
[Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ]