A new unmanned rover is to be launched on Mars in 2020, NASA officials declared in a statement made Tuesday, December 4.
No specific details about the new mission have been provided. However, some information regarding its goals, costs and the general mechanism have been made public.
“We have a whole new Mars mission, and I'm very excited about that,” NASA's executive for science, John Grunsfeld, said.
The new rover's structure will be based on that of Curiosity, NASA's rover having explored the Martian surface for over a year now, similarity meant to bring the agency a considerable money saving, Space reports.
Scientists say the rover's 2020 mission is only a preparation for its principal task: to collect samples from the Red Planet's surface and bring them to Earth, a procedure perceived as the most efficient in researchers’ struggle to find marks of life on Mars.
“I think, no question, we want to advance sample handling, coring, analysis of samples to determine caching,” Grunsfeld declared.
The new device was conceived after the White House's federal budget for 2013 came with a considerable reduction of the amount of money assigned for NASA's Mars missions, which forced the agency to reevaluate its plans.
“The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program,” declared Charles Bolden, NASA administrator.
“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.”
Despite NASA's recent financial condition, its Mars rovers are still providing the Earth with some of the most valuable information about the Red Planet.
Curiosity, which has been exploring the Martian surface since August 2011, is now in an extensive mission meant to reveal whether Mars' environment could allow microbial life or not.
Meanwhile, Opportunity, a NASA rover exploring the Red Planet for over nine years, is now researching a Martian region susceptible of having been able to support life a long time ago.