PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Diane Ainsworth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESeptember 24, 1996
SECOND NEW MILLENNIUM FLIGHT WILL SEND MICROPROBES TO MARS
Two small science probes will be sent to Mars in 1999 to
demonstrate innovative new technologies brought to the forefront
by NASA's New Millennium program.
Under terms of a new agreement between the New Millennium
and Mars Exploration programs, the microprobes will hitchhike to
Mars aboard NASA's 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander.
"A successful demonstration of the microprobe technologies
will enable a wide range of scientific activities that would not
be affordable with conventional technologies," said Dr. John
McNamee, manager of the 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander and Orbiter
project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA.
"In particular, scientific investigations which require a
relatively large number of surface stations distributed over the
surface of Mars, such as seismic or meteorology networks, will be
made possible by the microprobe concept," McNamee said. "In
addition, microprobe penetrators may be the most efficient and
effective way of obtaining soil
samples and measurements from below the sterilized Martian
In the process of enabling future characterization of the
Martian climate by a meteorological network, the Mars microprobes
will complement the climate-related scientific focus of the 1998
Mars Surveyor Lander by demonstrating an advanced, rugged
microlaser system for detecting subsurface water. Such data on
polar subsurface water, in the form of ice, should help put
limits on scientific projections for the global abundance of
water on Mars.
Future missions to the planet could use similar penetrators
for subsurface ice and minerals that could contribute to the
search for evidence of life on Mars.
The 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander will be launched in January
1999 and spend 11 months en route to the Red Planet. Just prior
to its entry into the Martian atmosphere, the microprobes,
mounted on the spacecraft's cruise ring, will separate and
plummet to the surface using a single-stage entry aeroshell
system. Chosen for its simplicity, this aeroshell does not
separate from the microprobes, as have traditional aeroshells on
previous spacecraft, such as the Mars Pathfinder and the Viking
landers of the mid-1970s.
The probes will plunge into the surface of Mars at an
extremely high velocity of about 200 meters per second (446 miles
per hour) to ensure maximum penetration of the Martian terrain.
They should impact the surface within 200 kilometers (120 miles)
of the main Mars '98 lander, which is targeted for the planet's
icy south polar region.
Upon impact, the aeroshells will shatter and the
microprobes will split into a forebody and aftbody system. The
forebody, which will be lodged one to six feet underground, will
contain the primary electronics and instruments. The aftbody,
connected to the forebody by an electrical cable, will stay close
to the surface to collect meteorological data and deploy an
antenna for relaying data back to Earth.
The microprobes will weigh less than 2 kilograms (4.5
pounds) each and be designed to withstand both very low
temperatures and high deceleration. Each highly integrated
package will include a command and data system, a
telecommunications system, a power system, and primary and
secondary instruments. Nearly all electrical and mechanical
designs will be new to space flight.
"In addition to a team of industrial partners that will help
develop advanced technologies to be demonstrated during the
mission, we have just selected Lockheed Martin Electro-Optical
Systems as a primary industry partner to participate in the
integration and test program for the microprobes," said Sarah
Gavit, Mars microprobe flight leader at JPL.
Technologies proposed for demonstration on this second New
Millennium flight include a light weight, single-stage entry
aeroshell, a miniature, programmable telecommunication subsystem,
power microelectronics with mixed digital/analog integrated
circuits, an ultra low-temperature lithium battery, a
flexible interconnects for system cabling.
In-situ instrument technologies for making direct
measurements of the Martian surface will include a water and soil
sample experiment, a meteorological pressure sensor and
temperature sensors for measuring the thermal properties of the
"The Mars microprobe mission will help chart the course for
NASA's vision of space science in the 21st century, a vision that
incorporates the concept of 'network science' through the use of
multiple planetary landers," said Kane Casani, manager of the New
Millennium program. The probes will become the first technology
to be validated in this new network approach to planetary
"Networks of spacecraft will address dynamic, complex
systems," Casani said. "For example, a single lander can report
on the weather at one spot on a planet, but a network of landers
is needed to characterize the planet's dynamic climate.
Similarly, a single seismometer will indicate if a quake has
occurred on a planet, but a network of seismometers can measure
the size of a planetary core. We need multiple spacecraft to go
beyond our initial reconnaissance to completely characterize
dynamic planetary systems the way we are able to do on Earth."
The New Millennium program is managed by JPL for NASA's
Office of Space Science and Office of Mission to Planet Earth,
Washington, D.C. The Mars `98 lander, managed by JPL for the
Office of Space Science, is in development at Lockheed Martin
Astronautics Corp., Denver, CO, under contract to JPL.