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NASA: New Mars Rover By 2020 79

coondoggie writes "Looking to build on the great success and popularity of its current Mars Science Laboratory mission, NASA today announced plans to explore the red planet further, including launching another sophisticated robot rover by 2020 and widely expanding other Mars scientific projects. The plan to design and build a new Mars robotic science rover — which will mirror the technology employed with the current Curiosity rover — will advance the science priorities of the National Research Council's 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey (the report from the community and team of scientists that help NASA prioritize space missions) and further the research needed to send humans to the planet sometime around 2030, NASA said."
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NASA: New Mars Rover By 2020

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  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @02:15AM (#42188853)

    You realize that NASA has averaged only about $18b/yr for the last 56 years -- in current dollars, right? In more than half a century, they haven't even crossed the trillion dollar mark -- a thing we've done with the "war on terror" many times over. It accounts for something like 0.008% of the budget. While I'm all for needless small things getting cut (and big ones), the return on the trivial amount spent is massive and responsible for much of our economic and technological advancement of the last forty years.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @02:54AM (#42189045) Journal

    The problem with the interesting moons like Callisto and Europa is that the liquid water oceans are dozens or hundreds of miles below the surface. Sure we might be able to sniff some pretty interesting stuff from ejected water, but the big finds on these moons are going to have to wait for future generations of equipment that can drill through kilometers of ice.

    Mars is a reasonably good testing ground for this kind of tech. Not only is it an interesting body with a unique geology and a history that to a point wasn't so different from Earth's and at least a moderate candidate for some kind of life, but it is also considerably closer than Jupiter or Saturn. It serves as a great test bed for the kinds of probes we will likely end up sending to other bodies in the solar system.

    I look at the Mars rovers as the best possible test bed for these new technologies, not only in building rugged mechanical systems that can survive intense temperature differentials, dust storms and climactic changes and even hard radiation, but also in the software. I expect with some of the major advances we're seeing in neural net development that by 2020 not only will the next rover be a more sophisticated machine, but it's brain will be considerably smarter too.

    When you really think about it, NASA's Mars program is leading the way in highly sophisticated semi-autonomous probes. In a generation, we'll probably be able to launch the grandchildren of Curiosity to places like Titan and give them a far wider range of tools to explore.

  • by Isaac-1 ( 233099 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:12AM (#42189131)

    Because when it comes to rovers the technology is already advancing at such a rate that by the time they are flight certified and ready to go they look like a model T Ford in comparison to the stuff being played with in the development labs.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson