It first landed on August 5, 2012 and during its first year of operations; the Curiosity rover fulfilled its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor in an area called Yellowknife Bay yielded evidence of a lakebed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes, if any existed there.
Curiosity Project Scientist, John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, said that they were able to take advantage of landing very close to an ancient streambed and lake, furthermore, now they want to learn more about how environmental conditions on Mars evolved, and they know where to go to do that.
To help prepare for future human missions to Mars, Curiosity incudes a radiation detector to measure the environment astronauts will encounter on a round-trip between Earth and the Martian surface. The data are consistent with earlier predictions and will help NASA scientists and engineers develop new technologies to protect astronauts in deep space.
In 2016, a Mars lander mission called InSight will launch to take the first look into the deep interior of Mars. The agency also is participating in the European Space Agency's (ESA's) 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 orbiter and a critical element of the astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
NASA's Mars Exploration Program seeks to characterize and understand Mars as a dynamic system, including its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential. In parallel, NASA has been developing the human spaceflight capabilities needed for future round-trip missions to Mars.