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The European Space Agency decision today for Rosetta.
Even through NASA has begun moving to implement US President Bush's new space initiative; the plan hasn't gotten full support from Washington lawmakers yet. Two members of the House Science Committee, Sherwood Boehlert and Bart Gordon, expressed their concerns about the plan during a hearing on Wednesday, with all the unanswered questions about budget, affordability, and its impact on other science and astronautics programs.
With all this attention on Spirit and Opportunity, it's easy to forget that robotic exploration of Mars is just getting started. NASA has plans for several more missions in the works, taking advantage of the launch windows that happen every two years. Next up: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is due to launch in 2005. It will take images of the Martian surface at a resolution small enough to see a beach ball. 2007 will see the launch of Phoenix, which will put a lander on the surface to search for organic molecules and water in the Martian soil. And then the Mars Science Laboratory is due to launch in 2009, which will be a rover the size of a minivan, designed to crawl the surface for up to two years.
The European Space Agency announced its decision today for the two asteroids that Rosetta will fly past on its way to meet up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The first target is Steins, which is fairly small; only a few kilometres across - Rosetta will pass it by 1,700 km on Sept. 5, 2008. The second asteroid is Lutetia; a 100 km asteroid which Rosetta will pass within 3,000 km on July 10, 2010. Rosetta will then reach Comet 67P/CG in 2014.
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