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Space Studies Board Search: Jump to Top NewsJump to Science in the Subscribe to our FREE e- Headlines newsletter! NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL June 18, 2004 Current Operating Status On NASA Mars Sample-Return Mission Options Membership Report Appendix On December 3, 1996, Dr. Ronald Greeley, chair of the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration, and Dr. Claude R. Canizares, chair of the Space Studies Board, sent the following letter report to Dr. Jurgen Rahe, NASA's science program director for solar system exploration. In your letter of September 17, 1996, you requested that the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) assess NASA's plans for Mars sample-return missions. COMPLEX understands that you need its remarks in early December to aid in policy decisions by the agency. As you requested, the assessment was conducted at COMPLEX's October 16-18, 1996, meeting held at the National Research Council's Georgetown offices. The assessment was based on "The Search for Evidence of Life on Mars," a working paper drafted by NASA's Mars Expeditions Strategy Group, guest lectures on the scientific goals for martian samples analyzed in laboratories on Earth, and presentations on NASA's four possible mission options. NASA's presentations emphasized that the exact sequence and details (e.g., payload mass and instrument complement of orbiters, and ranges and on-board analytical capabilities of rovers) of missions in all of the options are currently under development. Consequently, COMPLEX must defer a specific assessment of mission plans at this time. COMPLEX has, however, provided a general assessment based on recommendations made in previous National Research Council reports. As such, both COMPLEX and the Space Studies Board (SSB) regard this current document as one step in an iterative process that will continue with the evolution of NASA's planning for the implementation of Mars sample- return missions. As you know, COMPLEX and the SSB have consistently emphasized the importance of an intensive study of Mars by spacecraft. An important element of such a program is the return of martian samples to Earth. COMPLEX continues to (1 of 2) [6/18/2004 9:26:04 AM]

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Space Studies Board support this viewpoint. The primary objectives for sample-return missions have been clearly defined and prioritized by both COMPLEX and other groups (see attached "Scientific Assessment of NASA's Mars Sample-Return Mission Options"). These include, among other high-priority objectives, the search for evidence of possible martian life. With regard to the general level of alternate mission option plans (i.e., baseline, paced, accelerated, or aggressive), COMPLEX believes that a vigorous, carefully planned, and well-executed program of martian exploration and sample return is warranted. However, the missions should address substantial scientific goals and not be overly focused on a single objective. In addition to comments on the principal objectives of martian exploration, COMPLEX's assessment also offers observations and suggestions on implementation strategy, site selection, and sampling strategy, as well as technology requirements and related programmatic issues that the committee believes are essential for the success of any Mars sample-return program. The Space Studies Board and COMPLEX look forward to following the future development and implementation of NASA's plans for Mars exploration and, in particular, sample-return missions. COMPLEX would look forward to hearing an updated presentation on NASA's Mars planning activities and to receiving feedback on the comments contained in the attached assessment. Perhaps this could be done at the next COMPLEX meeting, scheduled for February 3-5, 1997, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Last update 2/10/00 at 3:59 pm Site managed by the SSB Web Group. To comment on this Web page or report an error, please send feedback to the Space Studies Board. Subscribe to e-newsletters | Feedback | Back to Top Copyright © 2004. National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. 500 Fifth St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement (2 of 2) [6/18/2004 9:26:04 AM]