NASA announced yesterday the selection of the InSight mission, which will use a Phoenix-type lander to deliver a scientific payload to Mars in 2016 to study the Red Planet's interior structure, as its next Discovery mission.
The Discovery program offers an open competition for low cost missions targeted anywhere in the solar system or beyond. Previous missions have been largely directed
Commenting on the decision, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said; "This is a major victory for Mars exploration. Not only is InSight an excellent mission that will teach us much about the history and internal structure of the Red Planet, it saves the Mars exploration program. A few months ago, we were presented with the dismal spectacle of a NASA administrator justifying the administration's decision to cancel the 2016 and 2018 Mars exploration missions of the basis that 'the Mars program has been successful.' Now we have a mission for 2016, and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to get an orbiter or rover for 2018, thereby restoring to health the ongoing program of every-opportunity launch that Administrator Goldin put in place in 1994. That program has taught us an immense amount about Mars, and developed a team whose excellence was just demonstrated for all the world to see in the landing of Curiosity."
"In February we were told that program would be aborted, its team would be scrapped, and presented with a budget that would put the Mars exploration program out of business. Apparently the public blowback against those decisions resulted a learning experience for the administration. Keep teaching, friends. We'll get to Mars yet."