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Future Mars Missions

Mars has captured the popular imagination in a way that’s almost unprecedented in astronomy. Currently a flotilla of spacecraft are on their way to the red planet. Some will remain in orbit mapping the surface for future landers. Others are landers that will gather information with technology that is thirty years more advanced than those used by the Viking missions. These missions are being prepared by the United States, the Russians, Western Europe, and Japan. Some are truly international. The cost of robotic probes is far cheaper than a manned mission. Robotic probes cost a couple of hundred million dollars, whereas the best guess of a manned mission to Mars cost is somewhere in the range of two hundred to thee hundred billion dollars, beyond the scope of all but a truly worldwide international consortium. Nonetheless, the red planet retains such allure as a possible place where we may find life beyond Earth that people are committed to the exploration of Mars.