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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers
Waiting in the wings a set of missions designed to follow up on the successes of Viking, Pathfinder and Global Surveyor... leading, perhaps, to the first human missions to Mars.
These rovers would be much larger than Sojourner, and able to cover 100 meters each day.
On board, a rock abrasion tool, nicknamed "RAT", to expose fresh rock surfaces for study, and next-generation sensors to assay the composition of the rocks.
One goal, to find out more precisely how much water once was here... and how suitable Mars once was for life.
Based on the success of Sojourner, Matt Golombeck is sure that rovers are the way to go.
Matt Golombek Project Scientist, Mars Pathfinder JPL, NASA / Caltech
If you want the ability to sample different materials out in the field, if you want the ability to go up to those different soil types, you have to have mobility. Thatís really needed for a mission thatís kind of like Pathfinder or a longer range rover mission.
Sometime later in the decade, there are hopes for a sample return mission, to bring a chunk of Mars back to earth.