While we’ve talking about Lunar Exploration, a parallel path would be underway to check out the Red Planet. Starting around Robotic Asteroid Exploration (OPS.7), the phase known as Robotic Martian Exploration (OPS.11) would begin. The idea would be to set up and maintain a robust Solar System robotic survey organization, where that exploration branch would not merely propose and investigate one part of the system at a time but would pursue multiple simultaneous missions across the System as technology would allow. Consider it an economy of scale in terms of keeping the mission teams busy and not experience a cycle of activity to quiescence and back again over and over. During the quiescent periods, teams often languish or even dissolve due to boredom and employment attrition, and keeping a steady menu of missions in play would avoid a great deal of that. Additionally, a string of missions either working at the same time or closely coupled in the same general period would allow for a better realtime accounting of how our System is related, instead of the circumstances and environments of each mission location being relatively unconnected to each other.
For Mars, the explorations would include its moons Phobos and Deimos, coupling the lessons learned in navigating the Asteroids into a near term planetary investigation operation. Coupling these different robotic mission types together will force a more generalized approach to Solar System Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) to be developed, instead of a specialized approach to all missions. That is something that is lacking in current efforts, this emphasis on specialization over generalization. If a more general mission capability could be developed for a range of explorer systems, then we would find ourselves seeing more and doing more, which would better inform subsequent missions and build systematic robustness and sophistication into the craft we send to scout out our Solar neighborhood.