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Mars is bracing for a flurry of activity over the next several years. Next year, NASA plans to launch an orbiter to study the atmosphere.

After NASA pulled out of a partnership with the Europeans in 2016 and 2018, it announced plans to fly a relatively low-cost robotic lander in 2016 to probe the interior. The space agency has since said it will contribute to the European missions, but in a minor role.

Rep. Adam Schiff, who has been critical of NASA budget cuts in the past, praised the latest news to land a Curiosity-like rover. Still, the California Democrat said he preferred an earlier launch date.

Grunsfeld said a 2020 launch is already an “aggressive schedule.”

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