Recently, deep cuts in NASA's budget for Mars led to the shakeup in the space agency’s plans for robotic exploration. Another factor behind the new report is the overlapping requirements of NASA’s long-range plan to dot the Red Planet with human footprints.
Mars planners are assessing international partnerships that could be highly enabling, especially as exploration activities become increasingly complex. Such partnerships could be at the mission or instrument level, and they could involve scientists from around the globe. [Boldest Mars Missions in History]
The June get-together of Mars experts made a strong case that missions flown in the coming decade could yield realistic steps toward Mars Sample Return. That pathway also would push advances in our understanding of Mars and certify key technologies that can lead to a humans-to-Mars initiative.
For example, work is under way to develop inflatable heat shields and larger parachutes.