Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Mars redux: NASA to launch Curiosity-like rover

LOS ANGELES — If you thought NASA’s latest Mars landing was a nail-biter, get ready for a sequel.

The space agency on Tuesday announced plans to launch another mega-rover to the red planet in 2020 that will be modeled after the wildly popular Curiosity.

To keep costs down, engineers will borrow Curiosity’s blueprints, recycle spare parts where possible and use proven technology including the novel landing gear that delivered the car-size rover inside an ancient crater in August.

The announcement comes as NASA reboots its Mars exploration program during tough fiscal times.

“The action right now is on the surface, and that’s where we want to be,” said NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.

Like Curiosity, the mission will be led by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But many other details still need to be worked out, including where the rover will land and the types of tools it will carry to the surface.

While the science goals remain fuzzy, Grunsfeld said the rover at the very least should kickstart a campaign to return Martian soil and rocks to Earth — a goal trumpeted by many scientists as key to searching for evidence of past life. Curiosity doesn’t have that capability.

In the coming months, a team of experts will debate whether the new rover should have the ability to drill into rocks and store pieces for a future pickup — either by another spacecraft or humans.

NASA is under orders by the White House to send astronauts to circle Mars in the 2030s followed by a landing.

Despite Curiosity’s daring touchdown, its road to the launch pad was bumpy. At $2.5 billion, the project ran over schedule and over budget.

Jim Green, head of NASA’s planetary science division, said the engineering hurdles have been fixed and he expected the new rover to cost less than Curiosity. One independent estimate put the mission at $1.5 billion, though NASA is working on its own figure.

“It’s hard not to feel a little Mars-envy,” Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology who focuses on the outer solar system, said in an email.

Brown added that he understood NASA’s decision given the pressure to fly humans to Earth’s neighbor.

A Curiosity redux makes sense, said American University space policy expert Howard McCurdy.

“Let’s hope that it can take advantage of economies of scale, in which case it would cost less than the Curiosity mission,” he said. “That sort of approach would extend our exploration capability while freeing funds for other expeditions.”

Mars is bracing for a flurry of activity over the next several years. Next year, NASA plans to launch an orbiter to study the atmosphere.

After NASA pulled out of a partnership with the Europeans in 2016 and 2018, it announced plans to fly a relatively low-cost robotic lander in 2016 to probe the interior. The space agency has since said it will contribute to the European missions, but in a minor role.

Rep. Adam Schiff, who has been critical of NASA budget cuts in the past, praised the latest news to land a Curiosity-like rover. Still, the California Democrat said he preferred an earlier launch date.

Grunsfeld said a 2020 launch is already an “aggressive schedule.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Supervisor candidates file conflict-of-interest forms

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

Vacaville set to usher in new chapter for Police Department

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Solano Jews gather for start of Passover

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Suisun council debates train depot renovation

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
 
Trial begins for teacher accused of abusing children

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

Suisun police ID shooting victim

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
County discusses consolidated dispatch

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

Miner Slough Bridge to see repairs

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
 
 
‘Heaven is for Real’ opens Wednesday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B5

Fiesta Days pageant organizers seek contestants

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Easter hunt set for Mare Island

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Coakley joins Solano fair board

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

Crews make quick work of vehicle fire

By Glen Faison | From Page: A6, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Paper Clover Campaign supports Solano County 4-H

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Hundreds flock to Krispy Kreme as it opens doors

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
County to honor Solano educators

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A14

.

US / World

Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
‘Shrimp Boy’ pleads not guilty in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Congress is giving states the transportation blues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Police: Suspects in killings wore GPS devices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Robot sub returns to water after 1st try cut short

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Supremacist faces murder charges in Kansas deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ukraine: Military secures airport from attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Democrats have outside money advantage – for now

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
First women move into Army platoon artillery jobs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Final deadline arrives for health exchange sign-up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
New LA newspaper embraces print in digital world

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Hamas praises deadly West Bank shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

 
2 dead after ferry sinks off SKorean coast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

.

Opinion

Expand Red Top Road

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

 
Oh, for the days of Dr. Welby

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page: A13, 9 Comments

 
Poor Judgement in Flight 370 column

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

Senseless babble that hurts

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

What love gives you

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
.

Entertainment

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer for bombing coverage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Lindsay Lohan’s mom pleads guilty to DWI in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Strahan’s ‘GMA’ side job confirmed with his visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Sports

Indians shut out Mustangs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Cal hires Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin as coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Warriors trying to move on without Andrew Bogut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks’ Torres uncertain for playoff opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

MLB marks 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ex-Minnesota State, Mankato coach returning to job

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Panthers jump Sabres to win NHL draft lottery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
More former players sue NHL regarding concussions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to 1-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Twitter buys data analytics partner Gnip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Yellen signals more aggressive stance toward banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Evonne Medina

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Carolyn McClelland

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics