CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – As the newest resident of Mars settles, Planet Earth is working on three more lander and at least two orbiting planes to join the scientific Marsianer Brigade, sweeping red equatorial levels on Monday, fewer than 400 Miles away from Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars.
That's about the distance from San Francisco to Pasadena, California, home of Mission Control for Mars.  InSight – the eighth successful Marsland rider – was scheduled to spend two years digging and monitoring the earthquake by the time rovers arrive from the US, Europe and China.
NASA's Mars 2020 will search for rocks that contain evidence of ancient microbes and put them in a safe place to return to Earth in the early 2030s. It targets a formerly humid river delta in the Jezero Crater.
The European-Russian ExoMars will also spy on a possible past life by drilling a few meters for chemical fossils. A spaceship that was part of an ExoMars mission in 201
The Chinese Mars 2020 will contain both an orbiter and a lander. The United Arab Emirates want to send their first spacecraft to Mars in 2020. The orbiter is called Hope or in Arabic Amal.
It seems that our neighbor Mars is holding a siren song for Earthlings, even though NASA is turning its immediate attention back to our moon.
Just three days after InSight's landing, NASA announced a new commercial lunar delivery program. The space agency has selected nine US companies to bring scientific and technological experiments to the lunar surface. The first start could be next year.
NASA wants to see how it works before trying something similar on Mars.
"The Moon is currently relative to commercial space," said NASA CEO Thomas Zurbuchen Science Mission Office, which directs the Moon Payload project.
At the same time, at the direction of the Trump administration, NASA is pushing for an orbiting outpost near the Moon for astronauts. According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, this would serve as a launching pad for moon landings and provide critical experiences near the homeland before people embark on a two- to three-year Mars mission.
Bridenstine is planning a trip to Mars for astronauts in the mid-2030s, admittedly a "very aggressive" target.
"The reality is, yes, your nation is extremely committed at the moment to get to Mars," Bridenstine said after InSight's Touchdown Moon as a tool to reach that goal as soon as possible.
Mars is the most obvious place for "boots on the ground" after the moon, said Zurbuchen.
What makes Mars so intriguing – for robots and ultimately human exploration is the relatively easy access, said Bruce Banerdt, senior scientist from InSight, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which lasts six months, every two years, when the planets are closest, conditions are tough but relatively hospitable. "A bit like no snow in Antarctica," said Banerdt.
In addition, Mars is one of the most likely places to live outside the earth, according to Banerdt.
Jupiter's Moon Europe Can Life have been hosted or even preserved, but it would take so much longer And so much more cost to get there that Banerdt said it would be hard to imagine such a mission anytime soon, every decade, said Banerdt It is plausible that robotic sniffers start on Mars every two years. That's five Mars missions for each one in Europe, he noted.
Mars currently has two working space probes – InSight and Curiosity – and six satellites in the US, Europe and India. The US is the only country that can successfully land and operate a spacecraft on Mars. Curiosity has been on the red plane since 2012. NASA's much older Opportunity Rover worked until June, when a global dust storm knocked it out of action.
In search of geological but non-biological secrets deep in Mars, InSight is already delivering amazing images of A Place "No Man Has Ever Seen," JPL Director Michael Watkins said. These photos remind us that in order to become science in this way, "we must be brave and we must be explorers."
NASA's Mars 2020 launch window will open on July 17 this year. The touchdown would be February 18, 2021.
"They're all invited back," Watkins said on Monday to the cheering crowd on landing days.
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