A budget envelope of $700 million USD, including a launch rocket, would probably limit the next mission to an orbiter. Near-term ideas will be taken into consideration for early mission planning in the 2018-2024 timeframe, while mid- to longer-term ideas will inform program-level architecture planning for 2026 and beyond.
The Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) met for first time in February 26, 2012 in Washington to begin discussing candidate mission concepts for a 2018 or 2020 mission. The purpose of the MPPG is to develop foundations for a program-level architecture for robotic exploration of Mars that is consistent with the President's challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the decade of the 2030s, yet remain responsive to the primary scientific goals of the 2011 NRC Decadal Survey for Planetary Science. The MPPG will use non-consensus, individual inputs of both NASA civil servant and contractor employees, with resulting decisions being the exclusive responsibility of NASA. The immediate focus of the MPPG is on the collection of multiple mission concept options for the 2018/2020 Mars launch opportunities. The Mars Program Planning Group final Report was presented in August 2012. Options and recommendations will influence NASA's FY2014 budget process. The final report was released in September 25, 2012, endorsing a sample return mission.