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Recently, astronauts drove an Earth-bound rover from the International Space Station. Yes, that's doing it the hard way. :-)

But importantly, this could pave the way for operating a Mars rover interactively from Mars orbit (or a Martian moon), thus saving the trouble and expense of landing a human on the planet who will, presumably, have to be lifted back to Earth at some point. The savings in fuel and equipment that would result from this could be quite significant, making this is a very interesting potential hybrid between manned and robotic missions.
Scott Maxwell's profile photoGary Calpo's profile photoDaniel Becking's profile photoAlex Law's profile photo
I can't imagine humans travelling that far just to park in orbit and let the robots have all the fun.
I can see a sane Mars mission with an orbital base, a couple of surface bases, and several rovers. Park in Orbit, drop rovers to evaluate landing sites, select one or more base sites for mining and fuel production,and research.
+Gary Calpo I hear you, but it's horribly practical. The fuel and equipment and cost savings are tremendous, and there's very little you can't achieve by teleoperating robots in real time. Some things you can do _ better_ that way.
I don't think there is that much to gain by controlling a robot in real-time. You could do that with todays military drones, but you only define waypoints and mission goal. If they bring a person to Mars, they will land 'em. Otherwise it would be way to much effort just to save between 4 and 24 minutes of communication delay.  
If Planetary Resources can provide fuel shipments at reasonable cost via Interplanetary Transport Network, you can run up and down between orbital and surface facilities at will. Later they can provide materials from the orbital foundries.
A hybrid approach is absolutely more cost efficient -- less stuff needed to take to Mars, and less fuel needed to get it going (off Earth and to toward Mars).   Less expensive means more likely to get funded than a human landing party.   As you said, there are things that the robots can do as well, better, and with zero risk to humans.   But for our survival as a species, I still want to see manned landings :)
The trick to going to Mars is to treat it as colonizing Martian space. Two moons, the planet, at least one ISS style low orbit habitat/staging post. Send cargo pods, reusable shuttles, disposable cargo landers, lots of supplies, and rovers and flying drones. Then send small groups of crewed craft with minimal supplies on the fastest burn we can pay for to reduce the chance of getting caught by something nasty on the way. Have a long tail of slow freight to keep supplies rolling in.
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