TABLE 11.1 Key Technology Findings and Recommendations from Chapters 4 Through 8

  Chapter 4 The Primitive Bodies Chapter 5 The Inner Planets Chapter 6 Mars Chapter 7 The Giant Planets Chapter 8 Satellites
Technology development Continue technology developments in several areas including ASRG and thruster packaging and lifetime, thermal protection systems, remote sampling and coring devices, methods of determining that a sample contains ices and organic matter and of preserving it at low temperatures, and electric thrusters mated to advanced power systems.

Develop a program to bridge the TRL 4-6 development gap for flight instruments.
Continue current initiatives.
Possibly expand incentives to include capabilities for surface access and survivability for challenging environments such as Venus’s surface and frigid polar craters on the Moon.
Key technologies necessary to accomplish Mars Sample Return are Mars ascent vehicle, rendezvous and capture of orbiting sample return container, and planetary protection technologies. Continue developments in ASRGs, thermal protection for atmospheric probes, aerocapture and/or nuclear-electric propulsion, and robust deep-space communications capabilities. Develop the technology necessary to enable Jupiter Europa Orbiter.
Address technical readiness of orbital and in situ elements of Titan Saturn System Mission including balloon system, low-mass/low-power instruments, and cryogenic surface sampling systems.

discovery and are not within existing technology capabilities. Early investment in key technologies reduces the cost risk of complex projects, allowing them to be initiated with reduced uncertainty regarding their eventual total costs. Although the need for such a technology program seems obvious, in recent years investments in new planetary exploration technology have been sharply curtailed and monies originally allocated to it have been used to pay for flight project overruns. As already stressed in Chapter 9, it is vital to avoid such overruns, particularly in flagship projects.

In the truest sense, reallocating technology money to cover short-term financial problems is myopic. The long-term consequences of such a policy, if sustained, are almost certainly disastrous to future exploration. Metaphorically, reallocating technology money to cover tactical exigencies is tantamount to “eating the seed corn.” The committee unequivocally recommends that a substantial program of planetary exploration technology development should be reconstituted and carefully protected against all incursions that would deplete its resources. This program should be consistently funded at approximately 6 to 8 percent of the total NASA Planetary Science Division budget. The technology program should be targeted toward the planetary missions that NASA intends to fly, and should be competed whenever possible. This reconstituted technology element should aggregate related but currently uncoordinated NASA technology activities that support planetary exploration, and their tasks should be reprioritized and rebalanced to ensure that they contribute to the mission and science goals expressed in this report. The remainder of this chapter discusses the specific items that should be addressed by this reconstituted technology program.

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