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NASA will be launching a new rover to Mars in 2020

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Curiosity has been pretty much a rock star for NASA, constantly meeting or exceeding expectations of the super high tech Martian lab on wheels. But never one to rest on their laurels, NASA is already planning its next Mars rover in 2020.

The unmanned rover’s chassis and landing system will be based heavily on NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover, which has been tooling around the Red Planet since August of this year, said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science.

“We have a whole new Mars mission, and I’m very excited about that,” Grunsfeld said Tuesday at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The similarity to Curiosity’s basic design should allow the agency to save significant amounts of money on the 2020 rover mission, bringing its estimated cost down to about $1.5 billion, give or take $200 million or so, Grunsfeld said. [The Boldest Mars Missions in History]

Some basic guidelines for the mission are already in place. The 2020 rover should help NASA prepare for its eventual goal of bringing samples from Mars back to Earth — an effort most scientists regard as the best way to look for signs of life on the Red Planet.

“I think, no question, we want to advance sample handling, coring, analysis of samples to determine caching [of samples],” Grunsfeld said.

The new rover should also land at a site selected for its ability to preserve potential signs of life, according to Grunsfeld’s presentation.

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