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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 2 General Considerations NATIONAL POLICY The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 and subsequent statements of U.S. national policy charge NASA to conduct, for the United States, a vigorous program of space activities and to establish a position of international leadership in the exploration and understanding of the solar system and the broader universe. It is recognized that space science and exploration are an important international enterprise in which many of the world's nations wish to participate. For two decades, during the 1960s and 1970s, the United States led the world in planetary exploration. Investigations by U.S. scientists, with the participation of many international colleagues, yielded discoveries and conceptual insights that have profoundly advanced our understanding of the solar system as a cosmic phenomenon. Information returned from space flight missions in the U.S. program has expanded human perception about the varieties and behaviors of planetary bodies. During the two decades of vigorous U.S. activity in planetary exploration, the space program played an important role in projecting an international image of U.S. leadership in cooperative and peaceful scientific enterprises. For more than two decades the advancement of science has been one of the most important aspects of the U.S. space program. In its unmanned exploration program, the United States has carried out brilliant reconnaissance missions to Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune that have established U.S. preeminence in planetary exploration. The success of the Apollo missions has served both as a symbol of national achievement to the world and as a source of pride to all parties from the many nations that have had the opportunity to participate in the study of lunar samples. Although the scientific component of the U.S. lunar exploration program was only a small segment of the total enterprise, it is evident that the scientific advances that grew out of that work have been most impressive. http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (1 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]

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Space Studies Board In February 1988, the president approved a new directive on national space policy, the "Presidential Directive on National Space Policy," 3 which restates the U.S. commitment to vigor, leadership, and cooperation in the conduct of the nation's space program. The directive states that the goals of U.S. space activities include the promotion of "international cooperative activities taking into account United States national security, foreign policy, scientific, and economic interests," and the expansion of "human presence and activity beyond Earth orbit into the solar system." In addition, the directive states that the "United States will conduct international cooperative space-related activities that are expected to achieve sufficient scientific, political, economic, or national security benefits for the nation. The United States will seek mutually beneficial international participation in its space and space-related programs." Among the guidelines given for implementing the directive, several stand out as especially pertinent to the subject of the present report: Space science. NASA, with the collaboration of other appropriate q agencies, will conduct a balanced program to support scientific research, exploration, and experimentation to expand understanding of (1) astrophysical phenomena and the origin and evolution of the universe; (2) Earth, its environment, and its dynamic relationship with the Sun; (3) the origin and evolution of the solar system; (4) fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes; (5) the effects of the space environment on human beings; and (6) the factors governing the origin and spread of life in the universe. Space exploration. NASA should conduct a balanced program of q manned and unmanned exploration in order to investigate phenomena and objects both within and beyond the solar system. Manned exploration. To implement the long-range goal of expanding q human presence and activity beyond Earth orbit into the solar system, NASA should begin the systematic development of technologies necessary to enable and support a range of future manned missions. This technology program (Pathfinder) will be oriented toward a presidential decision on a focused program of manned exploration of the solar system. Unmanned exploration. NASA should continue to pursue a program of q unmanned exploration, where such exploration can most efficiently and effectively satisfy national space objectives when the presence of humans is undesirable or unnecessary or where the risks or the costs of life support are unacceptable for the purpose of exploration, and for providing data vital to support future manned missions. International cooperation. The United States should foster increased q international cooperation in civil space activities by seeking mutually beneficial international participation in its civil space and space-related programs. The intensive investigation of Mars and the establishment of international http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (2 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]

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Space Studies Board cooperation for that purpose would constitute major strides in the direction of implementing central elements of the space policy outlined in the 1988 "Presidential Directive." Such an investigation, carried out with the use of robotic instruments and artificial intelligence, would provoke technological developments important in their own right and would serve as essential precursors of any program leading to the manned exploration of Mars. Mars exploration offers a range of exciting scientific and technological challenges and opportunities that could serve as a focus for mutually beneficial cooperation among the world's nations. THE STATUS OF THE U.S. PROGRAM AND PROGRAMS OF OTHER NATIONS The United States pioneered the scientific exploration of the planet Mars. Between the Mariner 4 flyby in 1964 and the Viking landings in 1976, the United States obtained global images of the martian surface, made the first determinations of the chemistry of martian soil and the martian atmosphere, established strict upper limits on the presence of biogenic material and biological activity, and conducted initial meteorological and seismological measurements. At the time of this writing, however, the United States has launched no further missions to Mars since Viking; indeed, only two planetary missions (Magellan to Venus in May 1989 and Galileo to Jupiter in October 1989) have been undertaken since 1978. Due to the Challenger accident in 1986 the United States had no operational civilian launch capability for 18 months. As a result of this loss and related fiscal constraints, a long and growing queue of planetary missions awaited reestablishment of an adequate launch capability, either with the Space Shuttle or with expendable vehicles, thereby creating a mission backlog that still persists. The launch date for the only approved future U.S. mission to Mars, the Mars Observer, was recently moved back by 25 months to 1992. As this report is written, progress toward recovery of the U.S. civil space program remains slow and unsure. The operational status and ultimate capacity of the Space Shuttle remain to be established, and the restoration of a reliable, routine launch capability is still to be accomplished. During this long hiatus in U.S. space exploration, other nations have mounted scientifically sophisticated and highly successful planetary missions. During the 1970s and 1980s, the USSR sent to Venus a series of spacecraft that made important measurements of atmospheric and soil composition and obtained radar images of one-quarter of the planet's surface. The year 1986 saw encounters with Comet Halley by five spacecraft from Japan, the USSR, and the ESA; these spacecraft made pioneering measurements of the properties of the nucleus, coma, and solar wind interaction of an active comet. The USSR VEGA probes incorporated instruments from several European nations, and the program was managed with a large degree of international participation. U.S. scientists also participated in the Soviet VEGA project as team members and by building a small number of scientific instruments and components that were included in the payload. The USSR has announced specific plans to mount an intensive study of Mars and its satellites, starting with the 1988 Phobos mission (which, as this report is going to press, has failed) and extending into the 1990s with Mars orbiters, landers, roving surface vehicles and, ultimately, sample return. http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (3 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]

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Space Studies Board The emergence of capable and ambitious space programs in a number of other nations presents both opportunities and challenges. The opportunity to undertake solar system exploration with major components of international cooperation will allow advantage to be gained by combining complementary and overlapping capabilities for science and technology. To capitalize on this opportunity, however, and to sustain a position of scientific leadership, it will be necessary for the United States to reestablish a robust capability for solar system exploration. At the time of this writing, the United States occupies an ambiguous position with respect to continued major participation and leadership in planetary exploration. Decisions are needed at the highest levels to determine the future of U.S. participation and leadership in planetary exploration. The resumption of vigorous participation and leadership in space science and solar system exploration by the United States is not assured. However, in formulating the present recommendations, the committee made necessary assumptions about the U.S. commitment to reestablishing a vigorous space program. Specifically, for the purpose of this report, the committee makes the assumption that the United States will resume and cany forward a vigorous national space science and solar system exploration program of high quality. The committee also makes the assumption, for the purpose of this report that the program will include international participation and cooperation as enunciated in the Space Act of 1958 and the 1988 "Presidential Directive." 2,3 THE ENVIRONMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION The United States has traditionally conducted an open civil program of space science and exploration, inviting participation by a broad cross-section of participants from the international community. In recent years a broad internationalization of space science has developed. The USSR has begun to announce major planetary exploration initiatives in advance and to invite broad- scale international participation. The Soviet VEGA mission to Venus and Comet Halley apparently marked the beginning of a major internationalization of the USSR space science program. The internationalization of the Soviet program is expanding in the context of announced Soviet plans for Mars studies and appears to represent a recent move by the USSR toward the use of peaceful space science and exploration as an instrument of national and foreign policy. The ESA marked its entry into deep-space planetary exploration activities with its Giotto mission to Comet Halley. Current ESA planning includes commitment to further planetary mission. 8 Japan also entered independently into deep-space planetary investigations during the recent appearance of Comet Halley and has discussed plans for future planetary investigations. In these circumstances, the appropriate role and structure of international cooperation should be considered for any major space projects. Exploration of the planetary system is an especially appropriate arena in which to foster and develop increasing levels of international cooperation. It is in part through the results of http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (4 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]

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Space Studies Board space exploration that a sharp understanding of the uniqueness, finitude, and fragility of our own terrestrial environment has been fixed into the minds of all Earth's people. This has caused a better appreciation of the need for cooperative, unified steps to ensure Earth's future. Moreover, at this early stage of planetary exploration, the enterprise is not entangled with complicated problems of immediately nationalistic and territorial concerns. Thus exploration of the planets offers, at this time, an arena for international cooperation that can be free from many directly competitive and complicating factors and that potentially can help lead to more constructive international relationships in the future. At least three space agencies—those of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the European community—are capable of planning and executing ambitious planetary exploration programs. Only the United States and the USSR are now capable of executing programs of the scale involved in intensive Mars investigations. A larger number of nations and space agencies are eager to participate in the scientific and technical opportunities offered by these three agencies. Ambitious space projects require a long-term, stable commitment, even if executed by individual nations. International cooperation on such projects amplifies the need for a stable commitment among the participating nations that can best be assured by a clear national policy aimed toward international cooperation in space exploration. According to a 1987 NASA report examining options for future U.S. space exploration, "The broad spectrum of space activities and the increasing number of space-faring nations make it virtually impossible for any nation to dominate." 9 Leadership, however, requires that a nation not only enunciate its objectives but also have the perceived and real ability to carry out programs and achieve the objectives. Because Mars exploration necessitates a multimission program, the commitment among nations to cooperate in this endeavor offers a long-term, multifaceted opportunity to develop and evolve cooperative experience and to benefit substantially from the economies that a cooperative approach can offer. If it is to be undertaken, international cooperation in the intensive exploration of Mars should be implemented so as to effectively accomplish the pertinent scientific goals. The opportunities for cooperation, and the benefits, depend on the nature of the specific scientific activities involved. The study that is reported here (1) examined the elements that will be required in order to address the scientific objectives that have been defined for Mars and (2) analyzed the opportunities for international cooperation in that context. This report focuses on the question of how best to approach the potential of U.S.- USSR cooperation. This focus is not intended to underestimate the importance of participation by other nations and space agencies. High interest has been shown by several European nations, and by ESA, in participating in Mars exploration; there is the possibility, in the context of an exciting international opportunity for Mars exploration, that many other nations will wish to participate, including Japan and Canada, among others. The highly developed scientific and technical talents and capacities that are found in these nations would render their participation http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (5 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]

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Space Studies Board extremely valuable and important. However, the United States and the USSR are unique in that they are the only nations presently in a position to take on the lead role in a major Mars program that includes surface exploration and sample return. Therefore, the committee has assumed that the gross structure of any intensive Mars exploration program will be determined by policy and programmatic decisions made in the United States and in the USSR, and that, for at least the next decade, the opportunities for other nations to participate in intensive Mars exploration will depend on the programs undertaken by the United States and the USSR; it is for that reason that this report focuses on the possibility of U.S.-USSR cooperation. It should also be recognized, however, that because of the announced commitment by the USSR, international cooperation in Mars exploration is likely to be implemented whatever the U.S. decision is with respect to participating or adopting a position of leadership. There is a high probability that many nations in Europe and elsewhere will be very enthusiastic about participating in the Soviet program, even if the United States decides to remain on the sidelines. This report finds that the nature and scope of Mars investigations provide a rich opportunity for international cooperation. Cooperation can both enhance the science and provide substantial economies to the nations involved. Moreover, there is a variety of possible and beneficial cooperative modes. Full-scale cooperation could be initiated at this time and in such a way as to realize the major benefits of cooperation without major susceptibility to either the concerns about undesirable technology transfer or the possibility of large unexpected burdens that might arise in administering technical and management interfaces between unfamiliar partners. Both the United States and the USSR have made major advances in understanding the origin and evolution of the solar system and the evolution of planets and their environments. These advances have resulted from vigorous spacecraft investigations of various solar system bodies, from intensive laboratory studies of extraterrestrial materials, from theoretical research and modeling calculations, and from astronomical observations. The vigorous planetary science and exploration programs of the United States and the USSR over the past quarter century have precipitated the growth, in both nations, of impressive scientific communities with parallel interests and research activities. The committee believes that these communities could work together in a cooperative fashion with some facility and with positive results. International cooperation may entail special costs and burdens that should be weighed against the benefits. The administration of technical and management interfaces is a major task even for projects conducted within a single agency. Such problems are exacerbated by the need for long-distance communications, by language barriers, and by different ways of conducting business in a major international project. The costs and burdens imposed by these problems vary with the degree of previously existing cooperative experience. The record of actual intensive and close cooperation between U.S. and USSR scientific communities, and between the governments and their respective space agencies, is not a long one, although there exist important specific examples of very fruitful and valuable http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (6 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]

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Space Studies Board collaborations on several levels and in a variety of areas. Therefore, the establishment of cooperative programs involving intensive technical interaction between the United States and the USSR presents special problems that arise as a result of the lack of experience with intensive cooperation, especially for a program as ambitious and complex as that envisioned for intensive Mars exploration. International cooperation requires an infrastructure in which mutual exchange can occur freely. In the context of U.S.-USSR cooperation, there is limited experience in cooperative ventures and the added burden of sensitivity about such matters as the exposure or transfer of technologies related to national security. Significant cooperative space projects are inherently of long duration. Even a project run by one nation alone entails a commitment of more than a decade for planning, design, construction, flight, operations, and data analysis. The typical time between the formal new start of a space project in the United States and the launch is approximately 5 years. The planning leading up to a new start normally entails at least 2 to 3 years, generally more. Added to that are the flight time of about 1 year to Mars, 1 or 2 years of spacecraft and instrument operation time on Mars, and several years of analysis following the flight mission, so that the duration of the project begins to approach 15 years. A program involving several flights over several years will further increase the overall duration of the project. Finally, the added complications entailed in very close technical integration of major project parts across national boundaries would inevitably add more time to the schedule. The inherent duration of a project such as the exploration of Mars is longer than the previously demonstrated stability of the U.S.-USSR relationship. International cooperation may be undertaken to accomplish a variety of goals beyond those of a purely scientific nature. Although the present report is oriented toward analyzing cooperation in exploring Mars on the basis of the science that might be accomplished, it is also recognized that any major cooperative endeavor is likely to be shaped so as to be responsive to other national goals. Indeed, some aspects of cooperation that might be seen as negative in the context of accomplishing the science alone—such as the management of difficult technical interfaces across poorly established channels of communication—might be seen as positive and advantageous in the context of international relationships. For instance, scientific cooperation could be seen as a benign arena in which to begin improving international communication and technical cooperation. In that case, meeting the challenges posed by managing new and difficult interfaces might be seen as major motivation from the outset. The pace with which such objectives are to be addressed involves policies and political questions that are outside the scope of the present study. However, the results of this study indicate that substantial scientific benefits may be derived from various forms of cooperation. Last update 9/5/00 at 4:06 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. http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/marscoopch2.html (7 of 8) [6/18/2004 10:03:45 AM]