Robots, probes and other tech could help astronauts explore destinations beyond our moon.
New robotic probes meant to aid space exploration could fly in four years.
The expeditions would pave the way for astronauts landing on asteroid.
The missions would characterize the radiation risks for future human travelers and scout for resources.
The road to Mars begins with robots practicing landings on an asteroid, tests of new rocket engines and prototype orbital fueling depots, among other technologies.
So says NASA, which has put out a call to industry, academic and other potential partners to flesh out its new exploration blueprints, released last week in response to President Barack Obama's decision to nip the moon-centered Constellation program.
"If all we wanted to do was send some humans to the moon, have them walk around and return them safely to Earth, then the previous program may have been enough," Robert Braun, NASA's new chief technologist, told Discovery News.
"That's not enough for me. I want to send humans beyond Earth. I want a NASA that tries things that have never been done before," he said.