NASA's Mars Science Lab and Curiosity rover are the next steps in a long-term plan to travel farther and faster into space. Check out this visual tour of the future spacecrafts and tools that will get them there.
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The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009, produced this colorful, high-res topographical map of the moon, released in November, 2011. LRO's job is to conduct research for future lunar exploration, including identifying landing sites and resources, such as ice. LRO's instruments return images of the Moon, along with topography and temperature measurements. The spacecraft carries a microchip with the names of 1.6 million people who responded to a space agency initiative to "send your name to the Moon."