Skip to content
How We Will Explore Mars After the Curiosity Rover

How We Will Explore Mars After the Curiosity Rover

In the coming months, NASA must decide whether it will launch a flagship mission to Mars in 2018. Such a mission would likely collect and return Martian rocks to Earth for examination. 

What’s the Latest Development?


In the next four to six months, NASA must decide whether it will plan a flagship mission to Mars for the 2018 launch window, begging the question what such a mission would look like. As the new rover Curiosity executes daily missions on the surface of the Red Planet, NASA planners believe that sending a mission to collect and return Martian rock to Earth is the best step forward, both scientifically and in terms of eventually sending humans to Mars: “Sending a mission to go to Mars and return a sample looks a lot like sending a crew to Mars and returning them safely. There’s a parallelism of ideas there,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Smarter faster: the Big Think newsletter
Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday

What’s the Big Idea?

Collecting rocks from Mars and returning them safely to Earth is a step toward the Obama administration’s stated goal of working toward a manned mission to the Red Planet. One worry of such a mission–that Martian rocks could contaminate Earthly ecosystems–could provide an opportunity to bring astronauts one step closer to setting down on the foreign planet’s surface: “Having astronauts rendezvous with a robotic spacecraft in space to seal off any potential contaminants could be a useful way to team the human exploration and planetary science programs together.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


Related

Up Next