National Academies Press: OpenBook

New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration (2003)

Chapter: Conclusion

« Previous: Technology Development
Suggested Citation:"Conclusion." National Research Council. 2003. New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10898.
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"Conclusion." National Research Council. 2003. New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10898.
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"Conclusion." National Research Council. 2003. New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10898.
Page 28

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Conclusion Missions Recommended by the SSE Survey In setting priorities for solar system exploration in the next decade, the SSE Survey considered missions to a diverse set of targets, from Mercury to beyond the orbit of Pluto. The missions described in the previous pages are a subset selected from this larger sample on the basis of the importance of the scientific issues they will address, their technical and fiscal feasibility, and, more intangibly, their ability to take best advantage of available opportunities. Prioritized List of New Solar System Missions for the Decade 2003-2013 Priority in Cost Class Mission Concept Name Flight Missions Small (<$325 million) 1 Continuation of the existing series of Discovery missions 2 Extended operation of the ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn Medium (<$650 million) 1 Kuiper Belt-Pluto Explorer 2 South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return 3 Jupiter Polar Orbiter with Probes 4 Venus In Situ Explorer 5 Comet Surface Sample Return Large (>$650 million) 1 Europa Geophysical Explorer 2 Preparation for Mars Sample Return Ground-based Facility Small (<$325 million) 1 Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Other Mission Concepts with Future Potential Other mission concepts thought by the SSE Survey to be extremely valuable either were too expensive or difficult to undertake with current technology, or depended on having certain scientific questions answered before the missions would be ready. These concepts are listed on page 27 in order to give some direction to the solar system exploration program as the current set of mission concepts recommended for 2003-2013 nears completion. 26 New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration

Candidate Missions for Flight After 2013 Medium Class Large Class Geophysical Network Science Mercury Sample Return Titan Explorer Asteroid Rover/Sample Return Venus Sample Return Uranus Orbiter with Probes Io Observer Mars Sample Return Neptune Orbiter with Probes Ganymede Observer Europa Lander Neptune Orbiter/Triton Explorer Trojan/Centaur Reconnaissance Flyby Saturn Ring Observer Comet Cryogenic Sample Return Future Mars Missions Prominent by its relative absence in the preceding lists of potential future missions is mention of missions to Mars, whose unique nature as the most promising planetary abode for life in the past, and the most likely target for a future human exploration mission, keep the Red Planet in a special category. NASA has recognized this special status by establishing the Mars Exploration Program Office, an organization parallel to NASA’s Solar System Exploration Division that concentrates exclusively on martian research. The Mars Exploration Program already has under development the slate of missions pictured in the diagram on page 10. Swarms of cooperating microrobots explore the martian surface—the future of solar system exploration? 27

Final Thoughts When the SSE Survey began its task of charting the goals and priorities for NASA’s solar system exploration activities in the period 2003-2013, it was far from clear where its deliberations would lead. As discussed in the preceding pages, current scientific understanding of the solar system, combined with the aspirations of the planetary-science community and moderated by technological and fiscal realities, points to missions to destinations as diverse as the icy wastes beyond Pluto and Venus’s hellish surface. In addition to enhancing our knowledge of the solar system, the suite of missions outlined in this booklet promises the possibility of revolutionizing our understanding of our origins and surroundings. Missions to extraterrestrial environments as familiar as the Moon or as exotic as the surface of a comet and Jupiter’s deep interior will not only increase our knowledge concerning our planetary neighbors but also help improve our understanding of our own planet and, perhaps, determine whether life—be it human or other- wise—is sustainable on other solar system bodies. The answers to profound questions are now within our grasp. Now that the goals are set, the challenge is to stay on track and bring to reality the space- craft missions the SSE Survey has outlined, and in doing so to write the next chapter in one of humanity’s greatest endeavors. Artist’s concept of an ice-penetrating probe deploying an autonomous submersible to explore a hypothetical aquatic environment—possibly an ice-covered lake in Antarctica, or an ice-covered moon of Jupiter. 28 New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration

Next: Image Credits and Sources »
New Frontiers in Solar System Exploration Get This Book
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Over the last four decades, robotic spacecraft have visited nearly every planet, from torrid Mercury to frigid Neptune. The data returned by these Pioneers, Mariners, Vikings, and Voyagers have revolutionized our understanding of the solar system. These achievements rank among the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century. Now, at the opening of the 21st, it is appropriate to ask, where do we go from here?

In 2001, NASA asked the National Academies to study the current state of solar system exploration in the United States and devise a set of scientific priorities for missions in the upcoming decade (2003-2013). After soliciting input from hundreds of scientists around the nation and abroad, the Solar System Exploration Survey produced the discipline's first long-range, community-generated strategy and set of mission priorities: New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy. The key mission recommendations made in the report, and the scientific goals from which the recommendations flow, are summarized in this booklet.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!