Feeds

NASA planning Curiosity v2.0 for Mars touchdown in 2020

It's going to be a busy decade for Red Planet

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

NASA has been laying out its plans to send a second rover to Mars based on the Curiosity platform that's currently trundling across, and burrowing into, the planet's surface.

"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," 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."

The new rover will use the same body as Curiosity and the same Skycrane landing system, but will contain a new suite of experiments for exploration. By saving the costs associated with designing a new rover, the organization thinks it can cut the price of the second mission to around $1.5bn and not have to worry about an unproven design as a side benefit.

NASA's science mission directorate is currently formulating the next rover mission's objectives, after which it will open the tendering process to build the instruments needed. Curiosity's current mission is to look at the habitability of Mars by building up a picture of its composition and the nature of any organic materials, but version 2.0 could add the ability to bring samples back to Earth.

"I'm delighted to see the Obama administration lay out a plan to return a NASA rover to the surface of Mars in 2020," Scott Hubbard, former NASA Mars program director said in an emailed statement. "If a caching system is included, we can begin moving toward a sample return campaign, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences."

Before the new rover gets there, however, there's going to be a lot of activity on and above Mars. Next year, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter will be launched, and by 2014 it should be in orbit, analyzing the thin Martian atmosphere and the effects of solar winds on the planet.

By 2016, with a little luck and a lot of science, the next lander will touchdown on Martian soil and start digging into it: InSight, short for The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. This static platform will use a "Tractor Mole" to dig 16ft (5m) into the planet to measure the heat closer to the core, and will also include a seismic detector to see how Mars is shaking geologically.

When the new Martian rover touches dirt in 2020, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the original Curiosity will still be operational. Its nuclear power plant is certainly good for eight years, and given that the the aged Opportunity rover is still rolling, Curiosity Two could potentially meet its father. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.