NASA is planning to launch Mars Rover Twin to Mars by the year 2020. The latest development was revealed by a leading scientist of the international space agency. The new rover would be deployed for collecting and storing samples on its trip back to earth from Mars. The new rover will use the same spare parts and engineering models as those that were used for the development of Curiosity. Curiosity was launched to Mars four months ago to look for the possibility of habitats with microbial life.
NASA is planning to significantly cut down the costs for the manufacturing of the replica of Curiosity to as low as $1.5 billion compared to $2.5 billion for the original Curiosity rover. This was disclosed by John Grunsfeld who is NASA's Associate Administrator for Science. He said this during American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco.
NASA was forced to withdraw a series of joint missions which was about to take place with Europe intended for the returning of rock and soil samples from Mars. This was as a result of budget shortfalls. Europe will be partnering with Russia for moving ahead and procuring their launch vehicle and equipment that was originally supposed to have been provided by NASA. NASA however stated they would be extending all technical support for Europe's ExoMars Rover starting October 1, 2013.
They will be also providing radio communications equipment for a European Orbiter that is about to be launched by 2016.
Detailed information regarding the science instruments, presence of cache for samples and landing site for the rover is yet to be determined. Although there were considerations for rolling out an orbiter in 2013, budget constraints did not allow the program.
The Mars Rover Twin would pave the way for NASA to achieve its goal of sending a human mission to Mars. For now, if the Rover succeeds in its Mars sample return mission, planetary science would cross another milestone.