NASA’s aging Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most data-productive spacecraft circling the Red Planet. Earlier this year it cruised past its 50,000th orbit since arriving at the planet in March 2006.
Credit: NASA/JPL


There’s a cry of help from and for the Red Planet, a plea for a Next Mars Orbiter – or NeMO for short. This spacecraft could be a super-slick communications relay and also snoop out and chart Martian resources for future use by human expeditionary crews.

Conceptual sketch of a Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Charles Whetsel/Robert Lock

But all that said, at what point does NeMO become a “Christmas tree” spacecraft? That is, a mission that is arguably weighed down with too many ornaments and limping limbs while sucking up more and more development dollars.





For more information, go to my new Scientific American story:


Will Mars Go Mute? NASA’s Aging Orbiters May Not Last Long Enough to Support Future Exploration

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