Nasa Plans To Send New Rover To Red Planet

Nasa has announced plans to send a new rover to Mars in 2020 as it prepares for a manned mission to the Red Planet.

The news comes a day after results of the first soil tested by the Curiosity rover found traces of some of the compounds like water and oxygen that are necessary for life.

President Barack Obama's administration "is committed to a robust Mars exploration programme", Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden said.

"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."

Nasa was forced to pull out of some joint missions with the European Space Agency after its budget was slashed earlier this year. 

It hopes to save money on the next rover - currently estimated to cost \$1.5bn (£900m) - by using spare parts left over from Curiosity and sticking to the same successful design.

The new rover brings the number of Nasa missions currently operating or being planned for Mars to seven.

The Opportunity rover has been exploring the Martian surface since 2004.

The much more sophisticated Curiosity rover landed in Gale Crater on August 6. Two other spacecraft are currently orbiting Mars to study the planet from above and help relay signals from the rovers.

A new craft - the Maven - is set to launch next year to study the Martian upper atmosphere.

Nasa also plans to send a craft dubbed InSight to dig the planet's depths in 2016 to determine whether its core is solid or liquid like Earth's.

"The challenge to restructure the Mars Exploration Programme has turned from the seven minutes of terror for the Curiosity landing to the start of seven years of innovation," said astronaut John Grunsfeld, Nasa's associate administrator for science.

While the rover's name and actual mission must still be worked out, Mr Grunsfeld said he hoped it would improve on Curiosity with the addition of a 3D camera.