Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NASA moves forward with Mars exploration plan

NASA has huge plans for its Mars Exploration Program.

As it decides the future of one of the two rovers exploring the planet, the agency is looking to the launch of the latest generation of robotic explorer next year.
Additionally, NASA tells that the agency is close to a deal to merge its Mars program with that of the European Space Agency, a big step toward manned missions.
NASA's Mars rover program is currently heading into its sixth year. The Opportunity and rovers Spirit were launched in 2004 and landed on opposite sides of Mars for what was to be a 90-day exploration mission.

Almost 6 years and a wealth of information later, the rovers were still ranging across the planet until recently, transporting back data to researchers on Earth.
Spirit stumbled into a sand trap 9 months ago, however, and all efforts to free the vehicle was unsuccessful. In fact, the most recent attempts resulted in it sinking even deeper into the soil.

NASA could build a decision as soon as next month, during its annual review, on whether to continue rescue efforts, the agency says.

"At this point, we plan to have the independent board look at our situation with Spirit and give us any added recommendations as to whether we should continue to try and extract it or not, said Doug McCuistion, the director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program .
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