WASHINGTON — NASA will launch a large rover toward Mars in 2020 as part of what the agency characterized as a “robust” multiyear program to explore the red planet.

The new rover will be based on the design of the car-sized Mars Science Laboratory rover, dubbed Curiosity, which successfully landed on the planet in August, NASA said in a Dec. 4 press release. The estimated cost of the Curiosity mission is $2.5 billion.

“This will ensure mission costs and risks are as low as possible, while still delivering a highly capable rover with a proven landing system,” NASA said in the press release. “The mission will constitute a vital component of a broad portfolio of Mars exploration missions in development for the coming decade.”

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...