With Curiosity still rolling across the Red Planet, NASA has revealed it will be sending another rover to Mars in 2020. The announcement, which was made at the 2012 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, also outlined the space agency’s plans for exploring Mars for the remainder of the decade.
The still unnamed rover will reuse much of the technology developed for the 4X4-size nuclear rover Curiosity, which is currently on a two year mission exploring Mars. This will allow NASA to both exploit the success of the current rover design as well as keeping down costs at a time when the U.S. Space program is facing budget cuts. Items from Curiosity that may be used in the new rover include the nuclear power unit, the robotic arm and the rocket-powered crane that delivered Curiosity to the surface of Mars.
Other Mars missions announced by NASA include the continuing of the Curiosity and Opportunity missions, the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter intended to study the Martian atmosphere, the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander mission that will look into the deep interior of Mars, and participation in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions. This will bring the number of current and planned NASA Mars missions to seven.
NASA says that the next step for the 2020 rover mission will be to begin instrument selection and outlining of mission objectives.