Mars Next Generation is a U.S.A. NASA reformulation of the Mars Exploration Program. It is a scaled-back robotic Mars exploration program conceived to fill the void in NASA's planetary science program created after the FY2013 budgetary cuts presented in February 2012, which prompted a stop in the collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the ExoMars program.
A budget envelope of $700 million USD, including a launch vehicle, would probably limit the next mission to an orbiter. Near-term ideas will be taken into consideration for early mission planning in the 2018-2024 timeframe, while mid- to longer-term ideas will inform program-level architecture planning for 2026 and beyond.
The Mars Program Planning Group
The Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) met for first time in February 26, 2012 in Washington to begin discussing candidate mission concepts for a 2018 or 2020 mission. The purpose of the MPPG is to develop foundations for a program-level architecture for robotic exploration of Mars that is consistent with the President's challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the decade of the 2030s, yet remain responsive to the primary scientific goals of the 2011 NRC Decadal Survey for Planetary Science. The MPPG will use non-consensus, individual inputs of both NASA civil servant and contractor employees, with resulting decisions being the exclusive responsibility of NASA. The immediate focus of the MPPG is on the collection of multiple mission concept options for the 2018/2020 Mars launch opportunities. The Mars Program Planning Group final Report was presented in August 2012. Options and recommendations will influence NASA's FY2014 budget process. The final report was released in September 25, 2012, endorsing a sample return mission.
Some strategies for a 2018 or 2020 mission are:
- Sample-return mission, where soil samples are placed in Mars orbit in the late 2020s or early 2030s. Retrieval would be accomplished by astronauts if they are at Mars or by a robotic mission.
- In-situ soil analysis.
- Improve our fundamental understanding of Mars surface and deep interior, before undertaking a sample-return mission and/or human exploration.
Concept missions to be considered are limited to $700M-$800M:
- A telecom orbiter (Next Mars Orbiter, NeMO) to replace aging satellites currently orbiting Mars.
- A stationary lander to investigate and select samples suitable for a later return to Earth.
- Discovery Program
- List of NASA missions
- Mars 2020 rover mission
- Timeline of Solar System exploration
- Leone, Dan (24 February 2012). "NASA Raids Outer Planets Budget To Fund Fast Start on Mars Reboot". Space News. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
- Eric Hand (28 February 2012). "Beset by budget cuts, US Mars scientists look to possible 2018 mission". Nature. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- Kate Taylor (16 April 2012). "NASA calls for ideas for future Mars missions". TG Daily. Retrieved 2012-04-16.
- Morning Jr., Frank (Feb 14, 2012). "NASA Units Hope For 2018 Robotic Mars Mission". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- "About the Mars Program Planning Group". Retrieved 2012-07-20.
- Stephen Clark (September 27, 2012). "Sample return remains focus of NASA's Mars program". Space Flight Now. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- "Concepts for Future Mars Missions - Astrobiology Magazine". Astrobio.net. 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
- "Science Strategy | NASA Solar System Exploration". Solarsystem.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
- "NASA - Mars Program Planning Group Milestones". Nasa.gov. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
- "NRC Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAP+S)" (PDF). Nasa.gov. 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
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- "Summary of the Final Report" (PDF). Nasa.gov. 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
- June 12–14, 2012, Workshop on Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas