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NASA to launch another Mars rover in 2020

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IN SPACE - AUGUST 5: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on the evening of August 5, 2012 PDT and transmitted to Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbe. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images)

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NASA

NASA plans to send a new scientific rover to Mars in 2020, the agency's science administrator, John Grunsfeld, announced today at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco, BBC News reported.

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The new rover is the seventh Mars exploration mission in the planning or operational stages at NASA, Pasadena Now reported. Others include the launch of an orbiter to study Mars’ upper atmosphere scheduled for 2013 and a mission called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) designed to study the deep interior of the planet.

To keep the new rover affordable, NASA plans to copy much of the Curiosity rover’s design, including its entry, descent and landing mechanism, BBC News reported. The new rover will likely carry different instruments, however.

“The challenge to restructure the Mars Exploration Program has turned from the seven minutes of terror for the Curiosity landing to the start of seven years of innovation,” Grunsfeld said, according to Pasadena Now. “This mission concept fits within the current and projected Mars exploration budget, builds on the exciting discoveries of Curiosity and takes advantage of a favorable launch opportunity.”

Grunsfeld also announced that NASA will tack another three years onto Curiosity’s budget, BBC News reported.

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