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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 International Cooperation for Mars Exploration and Sample Return 5 Summary and Concluding Recommendations Although this report addresses the question of U.S.-USSR cooperation, a more basic issue underlies the formulation of U.S. policy in this area. A policy leading to international cooperation cannot usefully be enunciated in the absence of clearly stated US objectives and intentions toward Mars exploration in particular and toward space science more generally. The United States needs to reestablish its leadership in some aspects of space science, including planetary exploration. At present, the architectural goals of the US space science program require both definition and a firm plan of implementation. This report takes as a premise that the United States will undertake a significant program of Mars exploration, and it focuses on the implementation of U.S.-USSR cooperation in that context. From a scientific perspective, international cooperation can be utilized to accomplish scientific objectives in a most effective manner. There may be many other benefits of a political and social nature to be gained from international cooperation in space science. However, the committee considers that the greatest total benefit will be derived if international cooperation is directed toward realizing objectives that are, of themselves, of the highest scientific importance and toward programs that are already regarded by all participants to be of high priority. Therefore, the committee considers it essential that a U.S. policy be enunciated that recognizes the high priority that has been given to intensive Mars investigations and sample return and that clearly states U.S. intentions with respect to such activities. To accomplish the Mars scientific objectives that have been formulated by the Space Studies Board, it will be necessary to conduct a sequence of missions to Mars, involving both in situ investigations and sample return. 1,5,6,10 lie committee considers that detailed Mars investigations should be initiated in the context of a program aimed at visits to a set of selected sites (four to six) and entailing several missions conducted over a number of years. Such a program would provide a major increment of knowledge about the planet Mars and about the states and evolution of terrestrial planets in general. It would also provide the basis of fact that (1 of 5) [6/18/2004 10:04:09 AM]

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Space Studies Board is needed to inform future decisions about further levels of Mars investigation, including the possibility of manned exploration of that planet. The scale of needed Mars investigation is such as to make it desirable to combine the resources of the world's major spacefaring nations in this scientific, exploratory, and technical endeavor of historic proportions. Inasmuch as the United States and the USSR are the only two nations presently carrying out space activities of the scale and scope needed to effect major Mars exploration, the committee considers that the plans and programs of the United States and the USSR will determine the overall conditions of Mars exploration, and that, for at least the next decade, other nations will engage in major Mars exploration to the extent that they participate in either the U.S. or Soviet programs, or both. The committee sought to recommend an approach, in which (1) each participant would make a substantial contribution, (2) the cooperation would enhance the total scientific benefit and would achieve economies, and (3) the cooperation would be robust against unforeseen difficulties and would provide the greatest likelihood of success. A U.S.-USSR joint program would double the number of martian sites accessible with a fixed, level of expenditure on each side. Exploration and sampling by robotic rovers among the several individual landing sites would greatly increase the surface area of Mars that could be explored and the quality of global network studies that could be undertaken. While the same objectives could also be achieved in the context of a single national program, such a unilateral approach would require a much larger commitment of resources. In a cooperative joint program of the kind recommended here, U.S. scientists would play a leading role in defining the scientific objectives, and U.S. scientists and engineers would be critical in the formulation and evaluation of scientific objectives, and in determining the nature of systems and instrumentation, as well their development and deployment. In the alternative event that they merely participate in missions conducted by another nation, U.S. scientists could not expect to have a substantial role, either in the scientific return or in the formulation and development of associated exploration systems. All of these considerations have led the committee to the conclusion that a program of cooperative Mars exploration with joint leadership by the United States and the USSR, and with significant contributions, yet to be defined, from the world scientific community, including the European nations and possibly Japan and Canada, is by far the preferred approach. The committee considers that the best approach to initiating cooperative Mars exploration with the USSR would be a highly coordinated exploration program of independently conducted missions that strikes a balance between the two extremes of very close cooperation involving split responsibilities and joint technical operations, and independently conducted, nearly noninteracting, parallel programs. Concurrent but independent missions will not yield, in comparable measure, the above benefits. The committee considers that the other extreme of fully joint missions, involving major systems hardware, software, and management interfaces, is too risky an undertaking, at this time, to be justified on the basis of scientific and technical considerations alone. An evolutionary program of several missions is recommended, one that starts with an (2 of 5) [6/18/2004 10:04:09 AM]

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Space Studies Board easily implemented but serious level of joint planning, coordination, and scientific cooperation, followed in the future by subsequent missions with substantially greater levels of coordination and possibly leading, ultimately, to missions that involve mission coordination with substantial hardware and software system interfaces and divided responsibilities. Such a program could effectively be carried out jointly with the Soviet Union. Coordination should be implemented at the inception and at all levels of program and mission planning. This should include discussions and agreement about science objectives, sites for sample collection, approaches to and coordination of in situ investigations, sample collection strategies and techniques, and mission schedules. The recommended framework for cooperation calls for exchange of scientific investigators on the various teams, specific coordination of investigations (in real time and otherwise) where useful and appropriate, exchange of data and samples, and jointly conducted data analysis. Ail of these elements of cooperation could be implemented now without undue concern about technology transfer or the burdens associated with interfacing and systems integration across international boundaries. Moreover, this framework provides considerable latitude for increasing the intimacy of cooperation in staged degrees; from the beginning, it allows modular scientific instrument packages from one nation to be flown on the spacecraft or Mars surface vehicles built and operated by the other nation. In summary, the committee recommends that intensive Mars exploration be begun in an international program coordinated with the Soviet Union. Longer-term evolution of joint activities with the USSR, based on accumulated experience and success along with the lines of communication and working relationships that would be created, may lead to a more intensively cooperative and mutually dependent program with joint operations. To implement Mars exploration and sample return, the United States should develop the capability to undertake several of these excursions independent of the performance of the USSR. Within the context of the recommended cooperative intemational program, the committee recommends that the actual design of spacecraft hardware and conduct of early missions be carried out independently and in parallel by the two nations. The committee further recommends that the United States and the USSR cooperate to identify the scientific objectives of their programs and to coordinate mission planning in detail to optimize the scientific return of the missions. The commitment to cooperation in such a program should be announced jointly by the United States and the USSR to make it clear that the two nations are major collaborators. The committee recommends that nonmission- critical hardware, such as individual scientific experiments, be considered for inclusion on the spacecraft of the other nation when there is a distinct scientific or performance advantage. The evolution of these working relationships may grow to a point that more complex interdependent missions can be considered in the future. (3 of 5) [6/18/2004 10:04:09 AM]

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Space Studies Board The committee recognizes the danger, inherent in this recommended approach, that the intended cooperation could deteriorate into a race for Mars. However, the recommendation specifically calls for a program in which the schedule is planned and paced in a manner agreed to by both sides. In such a context, the deleterious aspects of a "race," which might otherwise arise, should be well controlled. At the same time, the committee recognizes that some elements of competition are beneficial in science and in technology development and are inevitable in any such programs, cooperative or not. With a coordinated schedule and targets of exploration agreed upon in advance and by mutual consent, the competitive elements of Mars exploration could be confined to those areas in which they would indeed be beneficial the enhancement of the science as well as the related and required technologies. Altogether, the recommended approach would allow a rapid start on international cooperation for Mars sample return, would yield substantial economies if the program were to achieve the recommended scientific objectives for Mars investigations, could be implemented now without undue concern for technology transfer or burdens associated with interfacing and systems integration across unfamiliar international boundaries, and would allow a graceful path to increasingly close levels of cooperation as experience was gained and as the international situation might permit and make desirable. This approach would be resistant to failure resulting from unforeseen changes in the political relationship. PARTICIPATION OF OTHER NATIONS The United States has a long record of scientific and technical cooperation, as well as social ties and economic interchanges, with many Western nations. As a result, there exist well-established and effective lines of communication, as well as mutual familiarity with programs, practices, and institutions. With varying levels of participation, European scientists, engineers, industries, and space agencies lave played important roles in numerous joint projects with the United States. Because of this tradition, it is often desirable to engage in high levels of lscientific and technical cooperation that enrich programs of the United States and the USSR. The present committee considers the general modalities of close technical cooperation between the United States and European nations that were recommended in the U.S. NAS-ESF joint working group report8 to be equally applicable in the context of a U.S.-USSR cooperative program as recommended in this report and in the context of an independent U.S. program. The committee recommends that the United States encourage close cooperation with its more traditional scientific collaborators following the mechanisms that are already established. The U.S. program should make use of the knowledge of these collaborators in determining scientific mission objectives and in contributing to mission design. The committee recommends that this cooperation also allow the traditional collaborators to provide mission-critical subsystems as well as scientific packages when there is a distinct benefit to the program. Such a substantial commitment among nations may require an improved mechanism for ensuring the (4 of 5) [6/18/2004 10:04:09 AM]

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Space Studies Board needed long-term commitments to approved missions or programs. SAMPLE RETURN AND SUBSEQUENT SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS A principal objective of the next phase of Mars exploration is to select, gather, and return to Earth for analysis a scientifically representative sample of martian material. Because of the nature of the scientific questions, steps will be required to protect the integrity of the material so that important evidence is preserved. Inasmuch as the surface of Mars is relatively cold, questions about volatile constituents of the material, as well as about chemical states that would be altered by exposure to high temperatures, will be of high scientific importance. Similarly, answering questions pertaining to the past and present biological potential of martian material will require that stringent steps be taken to protect martian samples from alteration during collection, during the return flight (including such steps as cryogenic storage), and during their examination on Earth. Avoiding such alteration means that samples cannot be subjected to heat or chemical sterilization. Protocols governing the introduction of extraplanetary materials, as a result of purposeful space missions, are the subjects of international agreements. In preparation for eventual Mars sample return, it will be necessary to review the relevant protocols and practices in order to ensure the preservation of the scientific value of returned samples. A major component of the scientific program associated with any space exploration project involves the continuing analysis, experimentation, and development of theory that continues after the missions. The returned martian samples will be of utmost scientific importance and will have immense prestige associated with them. The control, care, and distribution of these materials will be under the jurisdiction of the nation returning the samples, but the committee recommends that there be a commitment to a joint scientific research program with the USSR that will provide these materials to qualified scientists throughout the world. The interchange of scientific information and close collaboration on all aspects of the science derived from these missions should be intrinsic and continuing components of the program, from its inception through the advanced stages of scientific analysis. Last update 9/6/00 at 12:16 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 (5 of 5) [6/18/2004 10:04:09 AM]