Red Planet missions far from science fiction Denver Post

With the 2001 Mars Odyssey settling into orbit, scientists and engineers feel free to dream of the next missions to the Red Planet. As NASA scientist Stephen Saunders exclaimed after Odyssey was captured in orbit on Oct. 23: “Well, Mars, we’re back.” If a slate of sci-fi-sounding scenarios is an indication, Mars science is back in a big way and Coloradans are involved up to their phasers. They see gliders flying into the Valles Marineris – the so-called “Grand Canyon of Mars.” They envision a “mother ship” seeding Mars with robotic weather stations. They want to “CAT scan” the Martian atmosphere and use hot-water jets to drill into the planet’s layered polar ice cap. Solar-heated balloons that inflate by themselves, an airplane that works in Mars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere and a small, hopping robot – called “frogbot” – are being tested by NASA.