NASA's Mars Exploration Program: The Evolving Next Decade
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The current decade for NASA's Mars Exploration Program has been a remarkable success with the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) orbiters, twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the Phoenix lander. These missions have, and are, revolutionizing our thoughts and perspectives on the Red Planet. The Program is poised to expand the discoveries of the current decade through exciting missions that will lead us into an even deeper understanding of Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is the "bridge" mission, from reconnaissance to large-scale intensive investigations on the surface. This presentation explores the approach and options, for setting the strategic framework for the future of Mars exploration by NASA. Ground truth has been critical to advancing our scientific understanding to date--how frequently do we need to go to the surface in the next decade? How likely is a Mars Sample Return mission by 2020? What international collaborations are developing, and how realistic will these be in light of budgetary and "partnership risk" pressures? What orbital science and infrastructure is desired, and what is needed? With heavy community involvement, and independent review and advice, these questions will result in a Mars Exploration Program that will engage the next generation, build on global partnerships, and advance our understanding of the solar system, Earth and Mars.