It’s been on the Red Planet for close to three months now and the NASA Mars rover Curiosity, which landed in the equatorial Gale Crater on Aug. 6, has been quite busy gathering data and even achieving some land mark finds, such as discovering the first evidence of water on Mars, having found an ancient water flow. the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is supposed to last for two years, after which funding from NASA will cease but mission scientists have said that very much like previous rovers sent to the Red Planet, there is a surety that the rover will continue operating and gathering data, expecting its on board nuclear batteries to last for around 20 years.
But once the rover’s plutonium generator’s die, it will make the Red Planet its final resting place as though the MSL is in constantly relaying data back, it cannot physically make the return journey home, as the space flight it took was a one way journey. Of course this has been the fate of previous rover’s as well and its very likely that the same will happen to Curiosity as well however speaking recently, the director of NASA's Mars exploration programme, Doug McCuistion said that it may be possible to one day bring Curiosity and while it may not be able to do this itself, McCuistion said manned missions to the Red Planet may be able to bring it back.
The NASA director said that it is hoped that manned missions to Mars will pick up a couple of decades from now, around the 2030-40s and if such a mission were to take place, then retrieving and bringing back Curiosity could very well be a likelihood.
McCuistion was speaking via satellite from the Scottish Highlands where the small village of Glenelg was christened, at an event, as a ‘twin’ for the geological intersection that Curiosity will be making its way to to study. Speaking, McCuistion said, "It is my hope that humans will be sent to Mars in the 2030s, or 2040s, and they will be able to walk up to Curiosity and bring it back, as I am sure there is a museum out there that would love to have it."
The NASA director said that while the MSL’s generators could last a couple of decades, the rover’s machinery may not and there was also the added risk of meteorite strikes, as Mars experienced a great deal.
Also speaking at the event, Retired astronaut Bonnie Dunbar said, "I am counting on some of these young people in here to get us to Mars before I am gone,” adding "It is not a question of if, but when and who."