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Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007–2016
The committee notes that Scout missions provide a potential additional mechanism for adding balance to the overall architecture (subject to the caveats discussed previously). In particular, the optimum science payload for MSTO may (or may not) alter depending on the outcome of the 2011 Scout competition.
Finally, international collaboration, as noted in the document Mars Exploration Strategy 2007-2016, could be another mechanism for adding balance to the Mars architecture.
RESPONSE TO QUESTION 3
In response to the question, Does the Mars architecture represent a reasonably balanced mission portfolio?, the committee finds that in the context of the basic types of missions, the Mars architecture is a reasonablywell balanced one: both landed and orbital missions are included in an appropriate mix, given the currentstate of Mars exploration. To the extent that the specific science objectives of the proposed missions aredefined, one of the three crosscutting themes for the exploration of Mars identified in the SSE decadalsurvey is largely neglected, as are very high priority topics related to understanding near-surface andboundary-layer atmospheric sciences, and so, in this respect, balance is sorely lacking. As has already been recommended (see above), a geophysical/meteorological network mission is a key to addressing both of these science areas, although some of the highest-priority science measurements could potentially be made on other surface missions (e.g., the AFL or the Mid Rover missions). These include meteorological, seismic, and heat flow measurements.
To optimize efforts to implement a balanced portfolio of missions, the committee offers the following recommendations:
Recommendation:Include the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network in the mix of options for the 2016launch opportunity.
Recommendation:If the Mars Long-Lived Lander Network cannot be implemented in the period underconsideration, provide for an effort to make some of the highest-priority measurements on the landedmissions that are included in the proposed Mars architecture.
Recommendation:Ensure that the primary role of the Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter isto address science questions, and not simply to serve as a telecommunications relay. This distinctionis particularly important with respect to the required orbital parameters that are adopted.
1. D.J. McCleese et al., Mars Exploration Strategy 2007-2016, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., 2006, p. 15.
2. Solar System Exploration Division, MFPE: Mission from Planet Earth, Vol. 2 of Solar System Exploration Division Strategic Plan, NASA, Washington, D.C., 1991, pp. 18-26.
3. See, for example, R.M. Haberle et al., “The Pascale Discovery Mission: A Mars Climate Network Mission,” Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, Texas, 2000, available at <www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/robomars/pdf/6217.pdf>.
5. Should mission resources permit it, the inclusion of descent and/or surface imagers in each network station would greatly enhance their utility by enabling them to pinpoint the actual landing sites and to perform some assessment of the local geology. With so little information available from specific sites on Mars, the addition of information from four or more network sites would be a significant bonus.