Thursday, December 6, 2012

NASA unveils plans for a new Mars rover in 2020

NASA is betting big time on its expeditions to Mars. A while back, Curiosity landed on the planet and in the wake of the success, the space organisation swiftly announced a follow-up mission planned for 2016. Now, another plan has been unveiled: in 2020, a to-be-developed Mars rover will be sent to the Red Planet to replace Curiosity. However, the plans still need to be given the green light by the American congress.

The plans
If all goes to plan, the new Mars machine should not cost more than 1,5 billion dollars. Curiosity was way more expensive; it ended up costing around 2,5 billion dollars, after exceeding the budget several times. NASA will attempt to reuse components that were left over from the Curiosity mission, in order to cut down on the costs. That also means that the new Mars rover will be quite similar to its predecessor, although it is likely NASA will at least include some upgrades.

It will take another eight years before the new Mars lander, which is yet to be named, will take off from earth. That means that we will be focussing on Curiosity's endeavours for a while. However, the space organisation is planning a Mars launch in 2016 as well. It's called the InSight project, and this newly constructed device is supposed to take a look beneath the Martian surface. That means that we will have a whole family of Mars machines driving around in eight years.

Ever since Curiosity touched down on the Martian surface, there has been a constant flow of news coming from the Red Planet. Recently, traces of an ancient river were found, as well as some peculiar blueberries. But perhaps the most amazing novelty of the Mars expedition is the set of amazing pictures that were sent back to earth. Perhaps it will be possible in eight years to provide us with a live video feed from Mars. Even though it is still unknown which features the novel Mars rover will get, speculation has already started. Scientists hope, for example, that the macine that will be launched in 2020 will one day come back to earth with samples of Martian soil.

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