Mars Exploration Program (MEP) is a long-term effort to explore the planet Mars, funded and led by NASA.
Formed in 1993, MEP has made use of orbital spacecraft, landers, and Mars rovers to explore the possibilities
of life on Mars, as well as the planet's climate and natural resources. The program is managed
by NASA's Science Mission Directorate by Doug McCuistion of the Planetary Science Division. As a result of 40%
cuts to NASA's budget for fiscal year 2013, the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) was formed to help reformulate the MEP,
bringing together leaders of NASA's technology, science, human operations, and science missions.
According to NASA, there are four broad goals of the MEP, all having to do with understanding the potential for life on Mars.
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
Mars exploration missions have historically had some of the highest failure rates for NASA missions,
which can be attributed to the immense engineering challenges of these missions as well as some bad luck.
With many of the goals of the MEP involving entry, descent, and landing of spacecraft (EDL) on the surface of Mars,
factors like the planet's atmosphere, uneven surface terrain, and high cost of replicating Mars-like environments for testing
come into play.