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Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007–2016
of these missions to the results obtained from past missions; and the incompletely articulated links betweenthese missions and the priorities enunciated by the SSE decadal survey and MEPAG.
The committee offers the following recommendations to NASA:
Recommendation:Include the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network in the mix of options for the 2016launch opportunity.
Recommendation:Consider delaying the launch of the Astrobiology Field Laboratory until 2018 topermit an informed decision of its merits and the selection of an appropriate instrument complementin the context of a mature consideration of the results from the Mars Science Laboratory and otherprior missions.
Recommendation:Establish science and technology definition teams for the Astrobiology FieldLaboratory, the Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter, the Mid Rovers, and the MarsLong-Lived Lander Network as soon as possible to optimize science and mission design in concertwith each other. (This model has been employed successfully by the heliospheric community.)
Recommendation:Devise a strategy to implement the Mars Sample Return mission, and ensure thata program is started at the earliest possible opportunity to develop the technology necessary toenable this mission.
2. Does the revised Mars architecture address the goals of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and optimizethe science return, given the current fiscal posture of the program?The committee finds that it cannot definitively say whether or not the revised Mars architecture addresses the goals of NASA’s Mars ExplorationProgram because the architecture lacks sufficient detail with respect to the science and the cost to allow acomplete evaluation. The various mission options are, as stated above, incompletely defined, and the strategicapproach to, and the selection criteria to distinguish among, various mission options are lacking. Thepresence of Mars Scout missions in the architecture is welcomed because they help to optimize the sciencereturn and provide balance. Nevertheless, the Mars architecture as a whole is not optimized, because theimportance of foundational strategic elements—for example, research and analysis programs and technology development—is not articulated.
In response to this finding, the committee offers the following recommendations to NASA:
Recommendation:Develop and articulate criteria for distinguishing between the three options formissions to launch in 2016. Similarly, define a strategy that addresses the short lead time betweenscience results obtained from the Mars Science Laboratory and selection of the mission to fly in 2016.
Recommendation:Clarify how trade-offs involving mission costs versus science were made for thevarious launch opportunities to justify the rationale behind the proposed sequence of specific missionsand the exclusion of others.
Recommendation:Maintain the Mars Scouts as entities distinct from the core missions of the MarsExploration Program. Scout missions should not be restricted by the planning for core missions, andthe core missions should not depend on selecting particular types of Scout missions.
Recommendation:Immediately initiate appropriate technology development activities to support allof the missions considered for the period 2013-2016 and to support the Mars Sample Return missionas soon as possible thereafter.
Recommendation:Ensure a vigorous research and analysis (R&A) program to maintain the scientificand technical infrastructure and expertise necessary to implement the Mars architecture, andencourage collaboration on international missions.
3. Does the Mars architecture represent a reasonably balanced mission portfolio?The committee finds thatin the context of the basic types of missions, the Mars architecture is a reasonably well balanced one: bothlanded and orbital missions are included in an appropriate mix, given the current state of Mars exploration.