The next rover that NASA plans to send to Mars in 2020 has a big job to do: gather and prepare samples from the Red Planet that can eventually be returned to Earth. However, currently, the space agency doesn’t have a procedure for getting these samples off Mars and back to our own planet.
That’s a huge problem, according to the Planetary Society, which released a white paper today analyzing the current state of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. It’s the space agency’s long-term initiative to explore the Red Planet with satellites, rovers, and landers. However, the paper, titled “Mars in Retrograde,” paints a fairly bleak picture of the program’s future. After suffering underinvestment over the past decade, the program has seen cutbacks, such as the cancellation of a few planned missions. And essentially, NASA’s exploration of Mars comes to a halt after the Mars 2020 rover, since there are no official follow-up missions in the works.
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