NASA was considering flying another orbiter to Mars, in part to assure it would have radio communications links for ongoing and future missions. Instead, additional funding will be allotted to keep all the current Mars missions operating, including the yet-to-be-launched atmospheric probe, MAVEN, which is scheduled to fly in 2013.
Curiosity, which is four months into a planned two-year mission, will be extended to at least five years, Grunsfeld said.
NASA also will contribute a key science instrument to Europe's planned ExoMars rover, as well as engineering support for an entry, descent and landing system. Europe is partnering with Russia for the launch, originally to have been provided by NASA.
"This is potentially good news," said Cornell University planetary scientist Steve Squyres. "The (science) community has already come forward with a very clear message about what the next Mars surface mission should be and that is to cache the samples that will come back to Earth. That's really a necessary part of this mission."