NASA is pursuing an aggressive, science-driven agenda of robotic exploration of Mars with a series of orbiters and landers. These missions carry science instruments selected to answer questions the planetary science community has posed to better characterize the planet (See Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, MEPAG ). The overarching objective is increased understanding with regard to Life, Climate, Geology, and Preparation for Human Exploration.
Many new technologies need to be developed and infused into future Mars missions, which demand the following capabilities:
- Better landing accuracy, with active hazard-detection-and-avoidance capability.
- Access to high-priority sites with terrain too complex for landing current rovers.
- Increased mobility to sample diverse geological sites and reach targets of interest.
- Longer-lived, more robust and higher-output energy systems to allow year and longer surface operations in a greater range of adverse conditions.
- Technologies to access the subsurface and acquire samples for in situ analysis.
- New and improved science instruments.
- In situ sample acquisition, preparation, and distribution systems.
- Increased autonomy to enable increased return of high-priority science.
- Planetary protection techniques.
- Technologies for possible return of samples to Earth for analysis.
The Mars Technology Program (MTP) is responsible for technology development plans that are consistent with NASA's Mars Exploration vision, and implementing and infusing those technologies into future missions.
Technologies are selected for development funding by competitions via NASA Research Announcements (NRA) and by direct funding when appropriate.