By James Figueroa
NASA is sending another rover to Mars in 2020 on the heels of Curiosity's successful mission, solidifying plans for the U.S. space program over the next decade after recent budget cuts had given space exploration an uncertain future.
The space agency is also calling the new rover a step toward putting humans on the Red Planet.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
The new rover will borrow Curiosity's architecture.
NASA already had two other Mars missions lined up in the next few years: an orbiter called MAVEN next year, and a drilling lander called InSight in 2016. The latter is part of NASA's low-cost Discovery program.
U.S Congresman Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, applauded the news in a statement but also pushed for an earlier launch date.
"While a 2020 launch would be favorable due to the alignment of Earth and Mars, a launch in 2018 would be even more advantageous as it would allow for an even greater payload to be launched to Mars," he said.