NASA will be ready next quarter to announce details of its amended Mars exploration programme, following last year's failures of the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander, says Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for space science.

The new plan will "make scientific and exploration sense", says Weiler. A decade-long programme of launches is being planned. NASA aims to better articulate overall Mars objectives rather than having a collection of aims for separate missions.

NASA says new Mars missions will be realistically focused and budgeted, and better managed. All missions are likely to include continuous communication during critical phases. The only spacecraft to be launched in 2001 will be a redesigned Mars Surveyor Orbiter, with the Mars Surveyor Lander mission cancelled. The return of Mars samples to Earth in 2008 is now unlikely.

Source: Flight International