Is NASA Done Sending Traditional Rovers to Mars?

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In February 2021, NASA landed a $2.7 cardinal rover connected Mars that has been roaming the Red Planet ever since. The abstraction bureau got what it paid for, arsenic the mostly autonomous Perseverance rover has been dutifully collecting stone halfway samples from Mars and storing them for the archetypal illustration instrumentality ngo from different planet.

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Perseverance was the 5th rover of its benignant to beryllium sent to Mars, but successful presumption of NASA’s aboriginal robotic exploration of Mars, the abstraction bureau is leaning towards launching a bid of lower-cost, sustainable missions erstwhile each 2 years, arsenic opposed to processing hugely costly rovers for the Red Planet.

During a gathering astatine the National Academies’ Space Studies Board connected Thursday, NASA’s Director of the Mars Exploration Program Eric Ianson unveiled the abstraction agency’s semipermanent strategy for exploring Mars, titled “Exploring Mars Together” that highlighted what’s adjacent aft the illustration instrumentality mission, SpaceNews reported.

“We wanted to look 2 decades into the aboriginal arsenic acold arsenic what are the things that we tin bash to make arsenic melodramatic and profound subject [as Mars Sample Return],” Ianson is quoted arsenic saying. “What we’re proposing to bash present is to bash it astatine little outgo and a higher cadence of missions.” He projected that those low-cost missions would beryllium betwixt $100 cardinal to $300 cardinal each.

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An illustration of the Mars Sample Return mission.

An illustration of the Mars Sample Return mission.Illustration: NASA

Should the projected draught strategy beryllium accepted arsenic doctrine, it tin beryllium said that NASA volition extremity the epoch of high-end Mars rovers with a bang; it does not get much analyzable than Mars Sample Return. The ngo is simply a associated effort betwixt NASA and the European Space Agency, and it includes an orbiter, lander, 2 helicopters, and a rocket. Working together, this fleet volition retrieve stone samples that person been stowed distant by the Perseverance rover connected Mars.

Moving forward, however, the abstraction bureau wants to support it simple. “Historically we’ve had peaks and valleys successful the Mars program,” said Ianson during the meeting, according to SpaceNews. “When we speech astir sustainable, it’s thing that tin beryllium changeless throughout. We privation to effort and support missions connected a regular cadence.”

That is until NASA tries to onshore humans connected Mars for the archetypal time. The abstraction bureau is focused connected its Moon to Mars objectives, a projected thought to usage the Moon arsenic a testbed to yet onshore humans connected Mars, including the usage of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket for heavy abstraction exploration. With the imaginable of landing humans connected Mars, NASA nary longer seems funny successful processing progressively analyzable robots for the Red Planet. Which really makes sense.

NASA’s rover missions usually came 1 close aft the other. The Curiosity rover, Perseverance’s predecessor, landed connected Mars successful August 2012 and NASA began processing its Mars 2020 rover ngo the pursuing year. But now, the agency’s “Future” tab connected its Mars Exploration website includes a conception for the Mars Sample Return ngo and different conception for “Humans connected Mars,” indicating that different signature Mars rover ngo is presently not successful the books.

This could precise good beryllium the extremity of a legendary epoch for NASA’s Mars exploration program. The robotic Martian explorers person provided immoderate large insights connected the past of Mars and the imaginable for the find of past microbial beingness connected different planet, positive a fewer iconic selfies during their journey. I conjecture a quality selfie connected Mars could beryllium beauteous chill too, but those humans volition person immoderate big, robotic shoes to fill.

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