MSL lands this evening, but our community will not be "forever changed." I disagree with Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Division Director. Everything we undertake in solar system exploration is filled with risk. We work to reduce that risk, but it is never zero. MSL landing successfully will be a great engineering feat. It commences an ambitious investigation of an area that should yield rich, detailed information about Mars' past and its potential for having hosted life in that past. Failure will not put our nation's planetary science program "at stake".
Overreaction can. We are weakened by bad policy recommendations and decisions of the past ten years, crippling the former workhorse Discovery program and canceling the Mars Scout program, while backroom deals are pursued to allocate yet more resources to large, uncompeted projects. The greatest challenge facing U.S. solar system exploration is making the transition from an adolescent focus on firsts to rebuilding our foundational programs and embracing science as "the endless frontier." To quote Vannover Bush, it "is one essential key to our security as a nation, to our better health, to more jobs, to a higher standard of living, and to our cultural progress."
Mark V. Sykes
Note from James Green, Director Planetary Science, NASA on Mars Curiosity Rover Landing