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Surprising Science

NASA’s Top Priority: Mission to Mars

A showdown over the course of Solar System exploration has ended with a qualified victory for Mars. NASA firmly favours a mission to Mars over a rival one to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

With NASA’s space shuttle program complete, what will its new priorities be? In a vote held to determine the agency’s focus until 2022, a mission to Mars emerged the winner. “But the decision marks the beginning of a much bigger battle: to secure the budget to lift the multibillion-dollar project off the survey’s pages and into the heavens. The decadal-survey committee’s recommendations, released on 7 March at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, relied partly on President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget request, which projected that NASA’s annual planetary-science funding would grow from its current allocation of $1.36 billion to more than $1.6 billion by 2015.”


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