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NASA - The Mars Exploration Program
November 13, 2007

Program Overview | SCIENCE OVERVIEW | Technology Overview

The Mars Exploration Program is a science-driven program that seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be, a habitable world. To find out, we need to understand how geologic, climatic, and other processes have worked to shape Mars and its environment over time, as well as how they interact today.

MarsImage left: Mars, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team
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Mars is similar to Earth in many ways, having many of the same "systems" that characterize our home world. Like Earth, Mars has an atmosphere, a hydrosphere, a cryosphere and a lithosphere. In other words, Mars has systems of air, water, ice, and geology that all interact to produce the Martian environment.

What we don't know yet is whether Mars ever developed or maintained a biosphere-an environment in which life could thrive.

Four Science Goals for Mars Exploration

The key to understanding the past, present or future potential for life on Mars can be found in the four broad, overarching goals for Mars Exploration:

Goal 1: + Determine if life ever arose on Mars

Goal 2: + Characterize the climate of Mars

Goal 3: + Characterize the geology of Mars

Goal 4: + Prepare for the human exploration of Mars

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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator