NASA on Tuesday announced it will launch its next Mars exploration rover in 2020, conducive with President Obama's federal budget request for fiscal year 2013.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement published online. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
NASA said the Mars 2020 rover will be based on the current Mars Curiosity Rover's design, but that the actual instruments and scientific tools had yet to be determined and would be commissioned through commercial partners chosen from an open bidding process.
Before then, NASA will lead or assist on four other unmanned missions to Mars, including the 2018 ExoMars rover, the robotic craft to be launched by the European and Russian space agencies, bringing its total to seven over the next seven years.