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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Panel Gives NASA Options for How to Bring Back Pieces of Mars
25 September 2012 6:10 pm
Months after NASA pulled out of the European-led ExoMars program, a panel appointed by the U.S. space agency today suggested a number of options for exploring Mars in the next decade and beyond.
All of the panel's recommendations would result in bringing back samples of martian soil as part of a search for signatures of life on the Red Planet. Collecting and returning samples was ranked as a top priority in the 2010 Planetary Science Decadal Survey by the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academies.
The Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), which includes both NASA officials and outside scientists, was created in March 2012, shortly after NASA announced that it would no longer participate in ExoMars. John Grunsfeld, the new head of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said then that NASA wanted to develop a scientific program that would pave the way for a human landing on Mars by the mid-2030s.
MPPG's summary report, presented in a media teleconference this afternoon, provides the options for getting to that goal. One option would be to combine a 2018 Mars orbiter mission, meeting NASA's stipulation that it cost no more than $800 million, with a follow-up rover that would help return martian soil. Another approach, the report says, would be to skip the orbiter and send a rover to Mars in 2020 to collect samples that would later be retrieved. The report lays out various alternatives for the number of launches needed to bring back samples, including the kinds of rovers that would be best suited for the different options.
Grunsfeld would not say when NASA plans to choose between the various options. "It will take some time," he said during the teleconference. However, he admitted that the agency would have to move quickly if it wanted to pursue the 2018 orbiter mission, because that would require requesting funds for the mission in the 2014 budget request now being sent to the White House. The planning group is expected to submit its full report on the options by mid- to late October.