A large NASA mission is about to come to a head when the organization's large rover lands on the big red planet just a few weeks from now. But now, scientists are already talking about what the next mission might be that brings an Earth craft to Mars. NASA is hoping that might happen in as few as six years, with 2018 to 2020 as the projected target.
According to NASA's Doug McCuistion, the next rover mission will be much less expensive than the current one, and it will likely rely on larger parachutes, atomic clocks, and inflatable decelerators. These design enhancements are designed to reduce the device's speed and improve landing accuracy as it travels through the Martian atmosphere.
The expected cost of the mission will be around $800 million. The current rover project required NASA to spend a much higher $2.5 billion. "That price point [$800 million] is frankly around the point of a Discovery mission. Those missions tend to be characterized by simple systems, not too challenging," McCuistion said in a Space.com interview. This is of course only one of multiple Mars projects in the works. Other privately-funded ventures are in process.