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Will Mars Go Mute? NASA's Aging Orbiters May Not Last Long Enough to Support Future Exploration

Scientific American ------- A cry for help has come from planetary scientists pleading for a Next Mars Orbiter—or NeMO for short. Researchers say the spacecraft fleet currently orbiting the Red Planet are aging and there are no replacements in the works, imperiling future Mars landers, rovers and even possible human missions that will depend on orbiters to talk to Earth. “We are at a turning point in Mars exploration,” says Casey Dreier, director of space policy at The Planetary Society. “NASA declares itself on a ‘Journey to Mars,’ but it can’t even invest in the most basic infrastructure to ensure that goal moves forward.” NeMO’s most pressing duty, in many eyes, is to take the baton from veteran NASA spacecraft—the 2001 Mars Odyssey as well as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been on duty since March 2006—that are at risk of expiring of old age. If they are gone, Earth will be mute to all missions sent to Mars in coming years. And even if they hang on, their technology is becoming outdated. NeMO could offer, for instance, broadband Earth–Mars laser communications—a big plus to handle the projected communications traffic outpouring from the Red Planet down the line. To get more in depth information click on the picture below to read the article.

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