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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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.