NASA moves ahead with Mars rover and orbiter

Image: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Artwork shows NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter relaying data. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

NASA says it’s selected five aerospace companies, including Boeing, to conduct concept studies for a Mars telecommunications orbiter that’s likely to launch in 2022. It’s also given the formal go-ahead for the final design of its long-planned 2020 Mars rover.

In addition to Boeing, the companies contracted for the four-month concept studies include Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Space Systems/Loral. The concept studies will be managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We’re excited to continue planning for the next decade of Mars exploration,” Geoffrey Yoder, NASA’s acting associate administrator for science, said in today’s announcement of the contracts.

The orbiter mission would provide advanced telecommunication capabilities as well as global high-resolution imaging of Mars. NASA’s move follows up on recommendations made by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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