NASA has announced that it will send a rover to the Red Planet in 2020 in preparation for an eventual manned-mission. This will be one of several crafts that have orbited or explored Mars, joining the ranks of Opportunity and the latest, Curiosity. The rover will be preceded by InSight, which will be sent in 2016 to explore whether the planet's core is liquid or solid.
This announcement comes a short while after Curiosity performed a soil test that resulted in trace amounts of oxygen and water, among others, which are needed to support life. That is Curiosity's mission, with the rover having a variety of means to perform tests, drill into soil, and more. This rover is a $2.5 billion investment into the search for the building blocks of life on the Red Planet.
Overall, the rover set to launch in 2020 will bring the current number of Mars missions NASA has performed/has in the works to seven. The US is responsible for the first successful mission on Mars, where the Mariner 4 retrieved 22 images of Mar's surface. The Soviets were first to land on the planet, but their device failed after less than half a minute. This move is the US's latest in its overall goal to lead the world in exploration of the Red Planet.
NASA Associate Administrator for Science, astronaut John Grunsfeld, offered this statement. "The challenge to restructure the Mars Exploration Program has turned from the seven minutes of terror for the Curiosity landing to the start of seven years of innovation. This mission concept fits within the current and projected Mars exploration budget, builds on the exciting discoveries of Curiosity, and takes advantage of a favorable launch opportunity."
[via Google News]