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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 1990 Update to Strategy for Exploration of the Inner Planets 2 Overview SIGNIFICANT CHANGES SINCE 1978 A number of developments in the decade following the publication of the 1978 report have made this update necessary. These developments fall into three areas—programmatic, scientific, and technical. The major programmatic issue is that progress toward the goals recommended in the 1978 report has been much slower than the committee anticipated when it wrote the original strategy. The Challenger disaster and cost increases associated with the Space Transportation System have resulted in long delays in the launch of planned missions. These unforeseen complications have placed large stresses on resources for new and planned missions, as well as on supporting activities. Since the publication of the previous strategy, only one U.S. mission has been launched to the inner planets. During this period the capabilities of other nations for planetary research have increased as well. This has provided a new environment for consideration of international cooperation. The last decade has nonetheless included significant U.S. and USSR planetary missions. Pioneer Venus has orbited Venus, and the Soviet Union has launched six missions. to Venus, including, radar mappers, landers, and atmospheric balloons, and has sent the PHOBOS mission to Mars. Most recently, the United States has launched the Magellan mission, which is currently en route to Venus, and the Mars Observer mission is progressing toward a 1992 launch date. Galileo made new observations of Venus when the spacecraft flew by it on the way to Jupiter. Several European nations have contributed instruments to the Soviet VEGA and PHOBOS missions, and Japan has launched its first experimental mission to the Moon. The major scientific developments include not only the understanding of new data from the space missions mentioned above, but also the deeper analysis of http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/innerch2.html (1 of 4) [6/18/2004 10:06:29 AM]
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Space Studies Board information from previous missions. The span of time has allowed a synthesis of many of these results. Additionally, basic research, ground-based observations, and theoretical modeling have provided new information and insights. Technical advances in instrumentation and computation make possible investigations that were considered unrealistic a decade ago. One very positive development is that economical ways have now been found to send an orbiting spacecraft to Mercury, a project considered prohibitively difficult when the 1978 report was written. The extensive delays in our planetary exploration program, the changed international environment, and the new data and continuing analysis of old data, together with our new perspectives based on current technology and understanding, all argue for a review of the existing strategy. REVIEW OF 1978 REPORT COMPLEX has undertaken a comprehensive review of the discussions and recommendations made in the 1978 report Strategy for Exploration of the Inner Planets: 1977-1987 (Appendix A). This review has included numerous presentations by leading authorities, who have described the current status and objectives of exploration of the inner planets. Based on these presentations and the most recent scientific publications, COMPLPEX, has concluded that the existing strategy is mostly valid and does not require extensive revision. The committee therefore endorses the discussion and recommendations of the 1978 report, except as noted below. Nevertheless, some parts of the report are outdated, especially the descriptions of the state of scientific knowledge at the time of writing. The present report is therefore an update to the 1978 strategy, enumerating the significant progress since that time, providing a current perspective on the outstanding scientific objectives, and delineating a small number of recommendations that extend and modify the 1978 recommendations and measurement requirements. The major modifications are to raise the priority of some of the 1978 objectives, to note where expected achievement of some goals has not occurred, and to add some objectives not mentioned, in 1978. The committee additionally provides advice on some key policy issues where significant developments have taken place over the last decade, in particular with regard to supporting research, program balance, and international cooperation. NEW RECOMMENDATIONS The extensions and revisions to the recommendations .made in the I978 report are summarized in the following recommendations: Mercury http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/innerch2.html (2 of 4) [6/18/2004 10:06:29 AM]
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Space Studies Board Characterization of Mercury's magnetic field should be a primary q objective for exploration of that planet. Venus Characterization of the basic structure, composition, and dynamics of q Venus's atmosphere should be a primary objective. Acquisition of seismic data from Venus should be maintained as a highly q desirable goal. Serious study of instruments operating at Veriusian surface q temperatures should be undertaken and preliminary studies should be conducted to determine the technical feasibility of sample return from Venus. The Moon A spacecraft or series of them should be placed in a lunar polar orbit. q The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should q develop the technology to deploy geophysical stations. Global mineralogical measurements at high spatial and spectral q resolution should be given a high priority. Mars The importance of the scientific objectives of study of the Martian q atmosphere, interior, magnetic field, and global properties should be given equal priority with the objective of intensive study of local areas. The geochemical, isotopic, and paleontological study of Martian surface q material for evidence of previous living material should be a prime objective of future in situ and sample return missions. Supporting Research NASA should support a vigorous program of data analysis, basic q research, and scientific instrument development. Program Balance Exploration of the inner planets in the next two decades should include q further exploration of Mercury and Venus because a program of planetary exploration that includes only Mars and the Moon is scientifically inadequate. International Cooperation Selection of foreign scientists and experiments for U.S. missions should q be based strongly on scientific merit, and the free flow of scientific data, http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/innerch2.html (3 of 4) [6/18/2004 10:06:29 AM]
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