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Full Transcript (below)
15. Q: When might a Mars drilling mission go to the red planet?
Stoker: "The question is when would we fly a drill to Mars? Ah, and to some extent the answer depends on, ah, outcomes of activities like the activity we are performing because there has been a consideration of sending drills to Mars. And there's—it's definitely considered a very high science priority—activity to send drills to Mars. But it has also been considered, ah, low on the scale of technology-readiness. So, in other words, people have felt that we just weren't ready to fly drills to Mars, and—and therefore we couldn't do it in sort of the current selection of missions. Whereas, rovers now are considered to be highly technically ready, so rovers are getting the essentially the flight opportunities. Um, the MARTE project and things like this are very important for bringing the drill technology to that same higher level of technology readiness so that they can be considered for flight. And I think that the MARTE project has now got a piece of hardware that is of sufficient sophistication that once we prove it in the field test, we will be at what at NASA parlance is called technology readiness level of six. And that's usually the level that's required before things can be considered for flight. So, I think that we have brought this technology to the point where it could be considered for flight. And the earliest opportunity that it could actually, ah, that a drill could take advantage of is probably the one that would land on Mars in 2009." (1:46 MINUTES)