San Francisco: NASA plans to follow up its Curiosity mission by sending a new rover to Mars in 2020 that could collect and store samples for return to Earth.
The announcement came Tuesday, a day after NASA released the results of first soil sample analysis by Mars rover Curiosity.
The new rover will use spare parts and engineering models developed for Curiosity.
Replicating the rover`s chassis, sky-crane landing system and other gear will enable NASA to cut the cost of the new mission to about USD 1.5 billion including launch costs, John Grunsfeld, the US space agency`s associate administrator for science, said at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
Grunsfeld said NASA will provide a key organics experiment for Europe`s ExoMars rover, as well as engineering and mission support under the agency`s proposed budget for the year beginning October 1, 2013. The United States also will provide the radio communications equipment for a planned European orbiter slated to launch in 2016.
Details about what science instruments would be included on the new rover, whether or not it would have a cache for samples, and the landing site have not yet been determined.
NASA plans to set up a team of scientists to refine plans for the rover and issue a solicitation next summer.
The National Academy of Sciences last year ranked a Mars sample return mission as its top priority in planetary science for the next decade.
With Agency Inputs