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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2006 6.3 Review of the Next Decade Mars Architecture On June 30, 2007, Reta F. Beebe, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Next Decade Mars Architecture, sent the following letter to Mary Cleave, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters. Subsequently, the committee released a final version of the report as a book, Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016. The Executive Summary can be found in Chapter 5 of this Annual Report. In your letter of December 29, 2005, to Space Studies Board (SSB) Chair Lennard Fisk, you explained that new scientific results from ongoing Mars missions, together with changes in funding levels for the Mars Exploration Program, have compelled the Science Mission Directorate to revisit the program’s architecture and the sequence of missions planned for launch to Mars after 2010. As a result you requested that the SSB review and evaluate the new architecture in a time frame to support NASA approval of the Mars Exploration Program’s revised architecture in mid-summer of 2006. In particular, you requested that the SSB address the following questions:1 Is the Mars architecture reflective of the strategies, priorities, and guidelines put forward by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) solar system exploration decadal survey and related science strategies and NASA plans? Does the revised Mars architecture address the goals of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and optimize the science return, given the current fiscal posture of the program? Does the Mars architecture represent a reasonably balanced mission portfolio? In response to your request, the ad hoc Committee to Review the Next Decade Mars Architecture was established (the membership of the committee is listed in Appendix 1) and met at the National Academies’ Keck Center in Washington, D.C., on March 29-31, 2006. The committee’s deliberations and discussions relating to the conclusions and recommendations contained in this letter report were initiated at the Washington meeting and continued in a conference call held on April 6. During the course of the Washington meeting the members of the committee consulted related reports issued by the SSB and other NRC committees2 and heard the following presentations: J. Douglas McCuistion—Director, Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters—gave the committee a programmatic overview of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. Michael A. Meyer—Mars Exploration Program Lead Scientist at NASA Headquarters—gave the committee a scientific overview of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. Daniel J. McCleese—Chief Scientist, Mars Exploration Program, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and chair of NASA’s Mars Advanced Planning Group—gave the presentation “Mars Program Plan: The Coming Decade” and distributed advance copies of the report Mars Exploration Strategy 2007-2016.3 W. Bruce Banerdt—Principal Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and member of NASA’s Mars Advanced Planning Group—gave the presentation “Is the Architecture Reflective of the Strategies, Priorities and Guidelines Put Forward by the NRC Solar System Exploration Decadal Survey?” Raymond Arvidson—James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis and chair of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group—gave the presentation “Mars Science Perspectives.” NOTE: Appendixes 1 is not reprinted in this annual report. 1 NOTE: As explained in the attached assessment, the committee reordered the questions posed by Dr. Cleave. 2 National Research Council reports consulted included Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars (2005), Science in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration (2005), Assessment of Mars Science and Mission Priorities (2003), New Frontiers in the Solar System (2003), Signs of Life (2002), The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples (2002), “Assessment of NASA’s Mars Exploration Architecture” (1998), Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations (1997), Review of NASA’s Planned Mars Program (1996), “On NASA Mars Sample-Return Mission Options” (1996), and An Integrated Strategy for the Planetary Sciences: 1995-2010 (1994). These reports were published by the National Academy Press [as of mid-2002, The National Academies Press], Washington, D.C. 3 D.J. McCleese et al., Mars Exploration Strategy 2007-2016, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., 2006.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2006 Noel W. Hinners, Vice President of Flight Systems (retired), Lockheed Martin Astronautics, addressed the committee on the topic “The Exploration of Mars: History, Hopes and Hallucinations and Mars Sample Return.” In response to the question, Is the Mars architecture reflective of the strategies, priorities, and guidelines put forward by the NRC’s solar system exploration decadal survey and related science strategies and NASA plans?, the committee finds that the proposed Mars architecture addresses some of the strategies, priorities, and guidelines promoted by the solar system exploration (SSE) decadal survey and the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) and is basically consistent with NASA’s plans as exemplified by the agency’s 2006 strategic plan4 and the Vision for Space Exploration.5 However, the absence of a sample return mission and a geophysical/meteorological network mission runs counter to the recommendations of the SSE decadal survey and significantly reduces the architecture’s scientific impact. Other topics of concern include the lack of well-defined mission parameters and scientific objectives for the Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter, Astrobiology Field Laboratory, and Mid Rover missions; issues relating to the phasing and responsiveness of these missions to the results obtained from past missions; and the incompletely articulated links between these missions and the priorities enunciated by the SSE decadal survey and MEPAG. The committee offers the following recommendations to NASA: Recommendation: Include the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network in the mix of options for the 2016 launch opportunity. Recommendation: Consider delaying the launch of the Astrobiology Field Laboratory until 2018 to permit an informed decision of its merits and the selection of an appropriate instrument complement in the context of a mature consideration of the results from the Mars Science Laboratory and other prior missions. Recommendation: Establish science and technology definition teams for the Astrobiology Field Laboratory, the Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter, the Mid Rovers, and the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network as soon as possible to optimize science and mission design in concert with each other. (This model has been employed successfully by the heliospheric community.) Recommendation: Devise a strategy to implement the Mars Sample Return mission, and ensure that a program is started at the earliest possible opportunity to develop the technology necessary to enable this mission. In response to the question, Does the revised Mars architecture address the goals of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and optimize the science return, given the current fiscal posture of the program?, the committee finds that it cannot definitively say whether or not the revised Mars architecture addresses the goals of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program because the architecture lacks sufficient detail with respect to the science and the cost to allow a complete evaluation. The various mission options are, as stated above, incompletely defined, and the strategic approach to, and the selection criteria to distinguish among, various mission options are lacking. The presence of Mars Scout missions in the architecture is welcomed because they help to optimize the science return and provide balance. Nevertheless, the Mars architecture as a whole is not optimized, because the importance of foundational strategic elements—for example, research and analysis programs and technology development—is not articulated. In response to this finding, the committee offers the following recommendations to NASA: Recommendation: Develop and articulate criteria for distinguishing between the three options for missions to launch in 2016. Similarly, define a strategy that addresses the short lead time between science results obtained from the Mars Science Laboratory and selection of the mission to fly in 2016. Recommendation: Clarify how trade-offs involving mission costs versus science were made for the 4 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 2006 Strategic Plan, NP-2006-02-423-HQ, NASA, Washington, D.C., 2004. Available at <www.nasa.gov/pdf/142302main_2006_NASA_Strategic_Plan.pdf>. 5 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The Vision for Space Exploration, NP-2004-01-334-HQ, NASA, Washington, D.C., 2004. Available at <www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration.pdf>.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2006 various launch opportunities to justify the rationale behind the proposed sequence of specific missions and the exclusion of others. Recommendation: Maintain the Mars Scouts as entities distinct from the core missions of the Mars Exploration Program. Scout missions should not be restricted by the planning for core missions, and the core missions should not depend on selecting particular types of Scout missions. Recommendation: Immediately initiate appropriate technology development activities to support all of the missions considered for the period 2013-2016 and to support the Mars Sample Return mission as soon as possible thereafter. Recommendation: Ensure a vigorous research and analysis (R&A) program to maintain the scientific and technical infrastructure and expertise necessary to implement the Mars architecture, and encourage collaboration on international missions. In response to the question, Does the Mars architecture represent a reasonably balanced mission portfolio?, the committee finds that in the context of the basic types of missions, the Mars architecture is a reasonably well balanced one: both landed and orbital missions are included in an appropriate mix, given the current state of Mars exploration. To the extent that the specific science objectives of the proposed missions are defined, one of the three crosscutting themes for the exploration of Mars identified in the SSE decadal survey is largely neglected, as are very high priority topics related to understanding near-surface and boundary-layer atmospheric sciences, and so, in this respect, balance is sorely lacking. To optimize efforts to implement a balanced portfolio of missions, the committee offers the following recommendations to NASA: Recommendation: Include the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network in the mix of options for the 2016 launch opportunity. Recommendation: If the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network cannot be implemented in the period under consideration, provide for an effort to make some of the highest-priority measurements on the landed missions that are included in the proposed Mars architecture. Recommendation: Ensure that the primary role of the Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter is to address science questions, and not simply to serve as a telecommunications relay. This distinction is particularly important with respect to the required orbital parameters that are adopted. Full details of the committee’s findings and the recommendations flowing from them, together with supporting arguments, can be found in the attached “Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016.” Signed by Reta F. Beebe, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Next Decade Mars Architecture