Editor's note: Kevin Peter Hand is a planetary scientist/astrobiologist in Pasadena, California. He was a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and was part of the Deepsea Challenge Expedition that explored the deepest depths of Earth's ocean in the Mariana Trench.
(CNN) – As the Curiosity rover begins its exciting trek across the surface of Mars and up the dramatic peak of Mt. Sharp it is important to realize that the plans for this great success were incubated and acted upon more than 10 years ago. Exploration like this is not for the faint of heart - it takes time and persistence.
So what's next? What is in the funded pipeline now that will be revolutionizing our understanding of life in the solar system 10 or even 20 years from now? The short answer is - nothing. Curiosity is it. After Curiosity there is, at present, no other mission in production that will explore potentially habitable worlds beyond Earth.