LOS ANGELES - For almost half a century, the United States has dominated the exploration of Mars from the first grainy black-and-white pictures of the craggy surface to the more recent discovery of ice.

Now, budget woes are pushing NASA toward a joint exploration venture with Europe. By 2016, the U.S. may unite with the European Space Agency for future Mars trips - a move that would mark a significant shift for NASA.

Details of such a union could come by the end of this month.

In May, NASA's space sciences chief Ed Weiler said he believed a partnership was the best avenue to pursue shared science goals "if we can lose a little bit of our ego and nationalism."

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