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To Mars, En Masse

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Science  19 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5405, pp. 1103-1104
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5405.1103

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PARIS-- At a conference here earlier this month hosted by the French space agency CNES, scientists described one new Mars mission after another, some big--the cluster of missions intended to bring samples of the planet back to Earth in the middle of the next decade--and some tiny. Current plans foresee 20 spacecraft making the voyage before 2010, of which five are en route, and a series of "micromissions" could add many more. The probes, which will scrutinize everything from subsurface ice to the edge of the atmosphere, represent a different approach to exploration: The missions are small, the risks are high, and the pace of innovation is quick. To some this continuous evolution is thrilling and satisfying; others are unsettled by the ever-evolving effort's breadth.