NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are now planning to land just one rover on Mars in 2018. NASA and ESA had originally planned to land two vehicles together on Mars to perform a tandem mission. One of the rovers would have investigated below the surface with a drill, and the other would have been used to collect rocks to return to Earth. However, cost concerns have prompted NASA and ESA to consider combining these roles into a single vehicle.
ESA member states and NASA discussed the idea on Thursday in California, and it received broad support. The new rover would be larger than either of the vehicles in the paired concept. The new vehicle would be built in Europe and take a mix of European and U.S. instruments. NASA would provide the rocket to get it into space and the "mothership" to carry it to Mars. The goals of the 2018 mission would be to look for signs of past or present life by digging down into the soil and packaging rocks that can be picked up and dispatched to Earth laboratories by a subsequent mission.