The joint Russian and Chinese Phobos-Grunt mission to return samples of Mars’s moon Phobos (grunt is the Russian word for soil) was originally scheduled for October 2009, but the mission was postponed till the next launch window in 2011. On September 15, 2008, NASA announced MAVEN, a robotic mission in 2013 to provide information about Mars’ atmosphere.In 2018 the ESA plans to launch its first Rover to Mars; the ExoMars rover will be capable of drilling 2 m into the soil in search of organic molecules.
The Finnish-Russian MetNet mission will land tens of small vehicles on the Martian surface to establish a widespread surface observation network to investigate the planet’s atmospheric structure, physics and meteorology.A precursor mission using one or a few landers is scheduled for launch in 2009 or 2011. One possibility is a piggyback launch on the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission.
Manned Mars exploration by the United States has been explicitly identified as a long-term goal in the Vision for Space Exploration announced in 2004 by the then US President George W. Bush.NASA and Lockheed Martin have begun work on the Orion spacecraft, formerly the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which is currently scheduled to send a human expedition to Earth’s moon by 2020 as a stepping stone to an expedition to Mars thereafter. On September 28, 2007, NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin stated that NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037.
ESA hopes to land humans on Mars between 2030 and 2035.This will be preceded by successively larger probes, starting with the launch of the ExoMars probe and a joint NASA-ESA Mars sample return mission.
Mars Direct, an extremely low-cost human mission proposed by Bob Zubrin, a founder of the Mars Society, uses heavy-lift Saturn V class rockets, such as the Space X Falcon 9, or, the Ares V, to skip orbital construction, LEO rendezvous, and lunar fuel depots. A modified proposal, called "Mars to Stay", involves not returning the first immigrant/explorers immediately, if ever. Dean Unick has suggested the cost of sending a four to six person team is one fifth to one tenth the cost of returning that same four to six person team; twenty settlers could be sent for the cost of returning four.