[meteorite-list] Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2013 12:22:48 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201307091922.r69JMmKJ012695_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
July 09, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The rover NASA will send to Mars in 2020 should look for
signs of past life, collect samples for possible future return to Earth,
and demonstrate technology for future human exploration of the Red
Planet, according to a report provided to the agency.

The 154-page document was prepared by the Mars 2020 Science Definition
Team, which NASA appointed in January to outline scientific objectives
for the mission. The team, composed of 19 scientists and engineers from
universities and research organizations, proposed a mission concept that
could accomplish several high-priority planetary science goals and be a
major step in meeting President Obama's challenge to send humans to Mars
in the 2030s.

"Crafting the science and exploration goals is a crucial milestone in
preparing for our next major Mars mission," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's
associate administrator for science in Washington. "The objectives
determined by NASA with the input from this team will become the basis
later this year for soliciting proposals to provide instruments to be
part of the science payload on this exciting step in Mars exploration."

NASA will conduct an open competition for the payload and science
instruments. They will be placed on a rover similar to Curiosity, which
landed on Mars almost a year ago. Using Curiosity's design will help
minimize mission costs and risks and deliver a rover that can accomplish
the mission objectives.

The 2020 mission proposed by the Science Definition Team would build
upon the accomplishments of Curiosity and other Mars missions. The
Spirit and Opportunity rovers, along with several orbiters, found
evidence Mars has a watery history. Curiosity recently confirmed that
past environmental conditions on Mars could have supported living
microbes. According to the Science Definition Team, looking for signs of
past life is the next logical step.

The team's report details how the rover would use its instruments for
visual, mineralogical and chemical analysis down to microscopic scale to
understand the environment around its landing site and identify
biosignatures, or features in the rocks and soil that could have been
formed biologically.

"The Mars 2020 mission concept does not presume that life ever existed
on Mars," said Jack Mustard, chairman of the Science Definition Team and
a professor at the Geological Sciences at Brown University in
Providence, R.I. "However, given the recent Curiosity findings, past
Martian life seems possible, and we should begin the difficult endeavor
of seeking the signs of life. No matter what we learn, we would make
significant progress in understanding the circumstances of early life
existing on Earth and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life."

The measurements needed to explore a site on Mars to interpret ancient
habitability and the potential for preserved biosignatures are identical
to those needed to select and cache samples for future return to Earth.
The Science Definition Team is proposing the rover collect and package
as many as 31 samples of rock cores and soil for a later mission to
bring back for more definitive analysis in laboratories on Earth. The
science conducted by the rover's instruments would expand our knowledge
of Mars and provide the context needed to make wise decisions about
whether to return the samples to Earth.

"The Mars 2020 mission will provide a unique capability to address the
major questions of habitability and life in the solar system," said Jim
Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division in Washington.
"This mission represents a major step towards creating high-value
sampling and interrogation methods, as part of a broader strategy for
sample returns by planetary missions."

Samples collected and analyzed by the rover will help inform future
human exploration missions to Mars. The rover could make measurements
and technology demonstrations to help designers of a human expedition
understand any hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate how to
collect carbon dioxide, which could be a resource for making oxygen and
rocket fuel. Improved precision landing technology that enhances the
scientific value of robotic missions also will be critical for eventual
human exploration on the surface.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute
of Technology, Pasadena, manages NASA's Mars Exploration Program for the
NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

The complete Science Definition Team report is available online at:
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/m2020/ .

For more information about NASA's Mars programs, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/mars .

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Tue 09 Jul 2013 03:22:48 PM PDT

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb