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NASA seeks wisdom of crowd for Mars robot missions

Scientists and engineers worldwide can submit papers for a conference dedicated to brainstorming ideas for future Mars exploration.

The Curiosity, an SUV-size nuclear-powered robot, will land on Mars this summer. NASA

NASA is trying to shed any "not invented here" attitude for its next missions to Mars.

The space agency announced Friday it is enlisting the help of scientists and engineers worldwide to lay plans for sending a robot to Mars. The planning group's ultimate mission is to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.

NASA is organizing a meeting, called Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, in June. Scientists and technologists can submit ideas for papers online, some of which will be presented at the conference.

The robotic mission ideas should be geared toward near-term missions, which could start as early as 2018, as well as longer-term goals.

NASA hopes the new approach of seeking input from outsiders will generate good ideas and help maintain technical skills in the U.S., the agency said.

This August, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars and help determine whether the environment is able to sustain life. Next year, NASA will launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution orbiter, a probe to understand the Red Planet's atmosphere.

The rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004, is still operating and there are two NASA-launched satellites now orbiting Mars.