NASA intends to send its next rover to Mars in 2020. Before the big day it has a big job to accomplish. It has to collect samples from the Red Planet to see if it can be transformed into a habitable planet for human in the near future. Experts have touted this mission as a coveted “Mars sample return” goal, which also hold high priority in the planetary science community at this time. However, a second step to the plan is yet to be determined. At present, the space agency does not have any procedure for getting the required samples of Mars and back to the Earth.
Absence of Official Follow-ups Can Halt NASA’s Mars Exploration
This problem is huge as per the Planetary Society, which has released a white paper today focusing on the current state of the Mars Exploration Program by NASA. The space agency has been planning to explore Mars for the longest time. In due course it has launched various satellites, landers, and rovers in line with the mission. However, the paper, titled “Mars in Retrograde” has painted a desolate outlook for the program. In the past decade, the program had to suffer due to underinvestment, in the years to follow it witnessed cutbacks such as cancellation of several planned missions. Furthermore, in the absence of proper follow-up missions, NASA’s mission for Mars exploration may come to a halt post Mars 2020.
The Planetary Society has therefore argued that it is time for NASA to start developing newer missions to Mars, if it intended to keep up the amazing work in science that the US has achieved this far.