It's been almost a year since Curiosity landed on Mars, but NASA's already looking ahead to 2020—and a new Mars rover.
The Mars 2020 Science Definition Team, made up of 19 scientists and engineers at universities and research institutions selected by NASA, presented a 154-page report outlining, among other things, a framework for a new rover to be built upon the successes of fully autonomous Curiosity and other missions to the Red Planet.
Jack Mustard, chairman of the Science Definition Team and a professor of geological sciences at Brown University, said in a statement that Curiosity's findings thus far have suggested "past Martian life seems possible, and we should begin the difficult endeavor of seeking the signs of life." The 2020 mission would help NASA make progress in understanding "the circumstances of early life existing on Earth and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life," he added.
The mission will focus on collecting and analyzing samples in hopes of reaching President Obama's goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s. The team intends to use an unmanned rover similar to Curiosity, which is roughly the size of a car and designed largely to minimize costs and risks, to collect 31 rock core and soil samples that a later mission will retrieve for testing. NASA intends on holding a competition to select the science instruments onboard.