MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Hardin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2000
NASA IDENTIFIES TWO OPTIONS FOR 2003 MARS MISSIONS; DECISION IN
In 2003, NASA may launch either a Mars scientific orbiter
mission or a large scientific rover which will land using an
airbag cocoon, like that used on the successful 1997 Mars
Pathfinder mission. The two concepts were selected from dozens
of options that had been under study. NASA will make a decision
on the options, including whether or not to proceed to launch, in
Two teams, one centered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL), Pasadena, Calif., and the other at Lockheed Martin
Astronautics, Denver, Colo., will conduct separate, intensive
two-month studies to further define the concepts. In the
studies, the teams also will evaluate risk, cost, and readiness
for flight, allowing 36 months of development leading to a May
2003 launch date.
The reports will be submitted for review to Mars Program
Director Scott Hubbard at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science at NASA
Headquarters, will make the final decision of which mission -- if
any -- to launch in the 2003 opportunity. If selected, the cost
of the 2003 mission will be about the same as the successful 1997
Mars Pathfinder mission (adjusted for inflation).
"Our budget will support only one of these two outstanding
missions for the 2003 launch opportunity, and it will be a very
tough decision to make," said Weiler. "Following this decision,
later in the year we will have a more complete overall Mars
exploration program to present to the American public which will
represent the most exciting, most scientifically rich program of
exploration we have ever undertaken of the planet Mars."
"These two mission concepts embody the requirements we have
learned through the hard lessons of two recent Mars mission
failures, and either one will extend the tremendous scientific
successes we have had with the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars
Pathfinder," said Hubbard.
The Mars Surveyor Orbiter is a multi-instrument spacecraft
similar in size to the currently operating Mars Global Surveyor.
It is designed to recapture all the lost science capability of
the Mars Climate Orbiter mission as well as to seek new evidence
of water-related materials. The orbiter's mission will be to
study the Martian atmosphere and trace the signs of ancient and
modern water. Its instruments potentially will include a very
high-resolution imaging system, a moderate-to-wide-angle
multicolor camera, an atmospheric infrared sounder, a visible-to-
near-infrared imaging spectrometer, an ultraviolet spectrometer,
and possibly a magnetometer and laser altimeter.
Telecommunications relay equipment that could be used to support
Mars missions for 10 years also would be included.
The rover is a based on the Athena rover design, which
already has been operated in field tests and previously was
considered for the canceled 2001 lander mission. The concept
being proposed for the 2003 mission involves packaging the 130-
kilogram (286-pound) rover in a system similar to the 1997 Mars
Pathfinder structure, which would be cushioned on landing by
airbags. Unlike the 1997 mission, however, the four-petal, self-
righting enclosure would serve only as a means to deliver the
rover to the surface and not function as a science or support
After landing, the Mars Mobile Lander would serve as a self-
contained mission, communicating directly with Earth or with an
orbiting spacecraft band as the rover traverses the Martian
terrain. The rover would be capable of traveling up to 100
meters (109 yard) a day, providing unprecedented measurements of
the mineralogy and geochemistry of the Martian surface,
particularly of rocks, using a newly developed suite of
instruments optimized to search for clues about ancient water on
Mars. The mobile surface-laboratory will be able to gain access
to a broad diversity of rocks and fine-scale materials for the
first time on the surface of Mars, in its search for evidence of
water-related materials. The rover's mission would last for at
least 30 days on the surface.
"We are opening up a new frontier on the red planet, and we
can't afford to overlook anything," Weiler added. "We have to
make sure we plan it well, provide our people with the tools they
need, and do whatever it takes to ensure the best possible
chances for success."
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.