Washington, Dec 6 (): The space agency NASA said on Tuesday that it plans to launch another mega-rover to Mars in 2020 that will be modelled after the wildly popular Curiosity.
The new rover will use spare parts and engineering models developed for Curiosity, which is four months into a planned $2.5 billion mission on Mars to look for habitats that could have supported microbial life.
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyse Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water, sulphur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples that Curiosity’s arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover.
The statement of sending a new rover to Mars comes a day after NASA released the results of the first soil tested by Curiosity rover, which found traces of some of the compounds like water and oxygen that are necessary for life, the US space agency said.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden said, “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.”
Like Curiosity, the mission will be led by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But many other details still need to be worked out, including where the rover will land and the types of tools it will carry to the surface.
NASA will provide the UHF communications systems for the 2016 mission, and in 2018 will provide a molecular analyzer for the ExoMars rover. The new rover will be based on the same architecture as the Curiosity rover currently exploring the planet. This will keep down the costs and the risks, says NASA.
The precise details of the new mission, however, remain up in the air. They will be determined over the coming months by a “science definition team,” with a call for instrument proposals from the scientific community expected by mid-summer next year.