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Two NASA scientists and noted planetary geologist have called for the Soviet Union and other nations to join the United States in robotic exploration of Mars in the 1990s.
Not only would the nations benefit economically by sharing the considerable cost but "convincing case can be made from the standpoint of world politics," said Drs. Donald Rea, Michael Carr and Mark Craig.
The proposal was presented in paper before meeting of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Pasadena, Calif., Aug. -- by Dr. Donald Rea, Manager, Mars Rover Sample Return Development Program at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Rea's paper was co-authored by other NASA and JPL scientists. Additionally, the proposal was explained in an article scheduled for publication in the October issue of Planetary Report, the monthly organ of the Planetary Society.
That article was co-authored by Carr, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz., and Craig, manager of the Lunar and Mars Exploration Office at NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.
"To continue the exploration of Mars, there is need for series of robotic missions that we characterize as the Mars
Surveyor Program," the authors said. "Elements of this are being studied not only by the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., but also by other countries and the ESA (European Space Agency.)
The authors noted that scientific interest in Mars has increased as more has been learned about the planet and that scientists have concluded in recent years that the environment on early Mars may well have been conducive to the formation of life.
"Thus the search for evidence of an early Martian biota has become an important exploration objective," they said.
In the paper entitled, "The Case for Multinational Mars Surveyor Program," the scientists stated that human exploration of Mars in the next century will most probably be multinational with complex management organization.
"The Surveyor program will enable the participants to develop and validate many of the management relationships and tools which will eventually be used in the human exploration phase," they said.
The imperatives for Mars Surveyor Program being multinational are the same as for the human exploration program with the most obvious being cost, they said.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union are experiencing budget pressures on space programs as result of long-term defense commitments, the authors said.
"At the same time the economic strength of Japan is steadily increasing and the economic unification of western Europe will be achieved in 1992. Thus these two entities will be
in position to take more aggressive role in space exploration," the authors said, adding that it would make economic sense for all of the countries in question to pool resources in joint program of exploration.
The scientists said also that world politics enters into it. "The banding together of the spacefaring world to explore Mars must have positive influence on our ability to coexist peacefully on our own planet. Our interdependence will be institutionalized in this effort, and will demonstrate that similar relationships can and should exist in other areas of our society," they said.
At present the Soviet Union is planning mission in 1994 that includes Mars orbiter with payload of penetrators, balloons and meteorological instruments. The United States will launch its Mars Observer, planetary orbiter, in 1992 to study the surface and the atmosphere.
What is needed, the authors said in their paper, is multinational study involving all interested countries to decide jointly on objectives, sharing of responsibilities and schedules.
The research in the paper was carried out by JPL-California Institute of Technology under contract with NASA.