NASA Has mapped out a 15-year programme for the robotic exploration of Mars. Stung by a series of embarrassing and expensive failures, NASA has defined a "robust, flexible, long-term plan that will give us the highest chances for success".

The programme begins with the already-announced 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter mission and the twin Mars Exploration Rovers in 2003. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will follow in 2005, to collect 200-300mm (8-12in)-resolution images.

As early as 2007, a long-range, long-duration mobile laboratory will land on Mars and pave the way for a future sample return mission. Also in 2007, the first of several small "Scout" missions will be launched. Additional science orbiters, landers and rovers are planned for the second decade.

Source: Flight International