The committee held three full committee meetings, all of them open to the public. The first meeting was held in Washington, D.C., in May 2001. At the first 2-day meeting, NASA presented its overall strategy for future Mars exploration and the current status of the program. From that initial briefing the committee then determined that it would need to hear further details of specific NASA technical capabilities and hazards on Mars. The second meeting took place over 3 days at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, during early August 2001. Representatives from NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston and from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena provided information on surface operations, space suits and equipment, detection of life on Mars, radiation health effects, lunar dust experience, Martian soil, and in situ instrumentation capability. The issue of whether or not there is need for a soil or airborne dust sample to be returned to Earth from Mars was also discussed.
Subsequently, the committee determined that further information was needed on the Mars robotic program. Three committee members, accompanied by NRC staff, visited JPL in late August 2001, when they were briefed on current research and development efforts in robotics.
The third and final meeting was held in Washington, D.C., in early September 2001; at that meeting the committee finalized the findings and recommendations contained in this report.
To ensure that it was including all previously identified hazards in its study, the Committee on Precursor Measurements Necessary to Support Human Operations on the Surface of Mars referred to the most recent MEPAG report (Greeley, 2001). The committee concluded that the requirements identified in the present report are indeed the only ones essential for NASA to pursue in order to mitigate potential hazards to the first human missions to Mars.
Chapter 2 presents the context in which this study was conceived and conducted. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 address the physical, chemical, and biological hazards likely to be encountered by the first human visitors to the Martian surface. Each of these chapters addresses the risks associated with potential hazards. In each chapter there is a section that details what precursor measurements, if any, should to be made prior to the first human landing on Mars. Appendix C lists the acronyms and abbreviations used in this report.
As a general rule, the committee made recommendations only when it determined that a precursor mission to Mars is required to provide information critical for the safety of the first human missions. The exception to this rule is the first recommendation, which deals with the establishment of risk standards, because the risk standard adopted has the potential to greatly affect the need for precursor missions. The committee presented findings if, in its judgment, there are ways of ensuring the safety of astronauts without carrying out a robotic precursor mission to Mars.
Greeley, R., ed. 2001. Scientific Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities, Mars Exploration Program/Payload Analysis Group (MEPAG), March 2. Also known as Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Publication 01-7 (2001). JPL, Pasadena, Calif.