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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr., who's 62, said his ultimate goal isn't just Mars - it's anywhere far from Earth."I did grow up watching Buck Rogers, and Buck Rogers didn't stop at Mars," Bolden said in an interview with The Associated Press. "In my lifetime, I will be incredibly disappointed if we have not at least reached Mars."That appears to be a shift from the space policy set in motion by the Bush administration, which proposed first returning to the moon by 2020 and then eventually going to Mars a decade or two later. Bolden didn't rule out using the moon as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond. But he talked more about Mars than the moon as NASA was still celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.Bolden said NASA and other federal officials had too many conflicting views about how to get to Mars, including the existing Constellation project begun under President George W. Bush. That project calls for returning to the moon first, with a moon rocket design that Bolden's predecessor called "Apollo on steroids." NASA has already spent $6.9 billion on that plan."We cannot continue to survive on the path that we are on right now," Bolden told NASA employees in a televised speech earlier Tuesday.A new independent commission is reviewing that plan and alternatives to it.
Once on the surface, the MSL rover will be able to roll over obstacles approaching 75 centimeters (30 in) in height. Maximum terrain-traverse speed is estimated to be 90 meters (300 ft) per hour via automatic navigation, however, average traverse speeds will likely be about 30 meters (98 ft) per hour, based on variables including power levels, difficulty of the terrain, slippage, and visibility. MSL is expected to traverse a minimum of 12 miles (19 km) in its two-year mission.
Personally I think NASA might be better off putting half a dozen more Sojourner-style rovers on various parts of the Martian surface - using a successful proven design - rather than constantly pushing the technological horizon.