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2001 News Releases

NASA Selects First Mars Scout Concepts for Further Study
June 13, 2001

       The 10 most promising mission concepts of the 43 proposed to NASA for possible launch to Mars in 2007 were selected today to receive funding for six months of continued studies.

       Included in the 10 concepts selected for study are missions to return samples of Martian atmospheric dust and gas, networks of small landers, orbiting constellations of small craft and a rover that would attempt to establish absolute surface ages of rocks and soils.

       NASA plans to evaluate the 10 innovative concepts using rapid six-month studies as a means for jump-starting the identification of new Mars Scout missions that will compete for a possible launch in 2007. The proposals were submitted to NASA's Mars Exploration Program in the Office of Space Science in Washington, D.C., in response to a call for proposals in March 2001. Those selected will receive up to $150,000 each for the study.

       "These Scout concepts embody the spirit I first thought about more than one year ago and will enable us to explore the diversity of Mars in new ways," said Dr. Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for space science. Weiler selected the 10 winners on the basis of overall scientific merit and potential for implementation under a total mission cost cap of $300 million.

       "All of us in the Mars Program are thrilled with the response by the community with such incredible ideas," said Dr. Jim Garvin, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. "These 10 mission concepts provide revolutionary new vantage points and tools for exploring the new Mars that has emerged from the observations of the Mars Global Surveyor."

       "The Mars Scouts are a vital element of the restructured Mars program and are intended to complement the science objectives of the core missions -- Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Sample Return," said Dr. Firouz Naderi, the Mars program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Perspective investigators were encouraged to propose diverse spacecraft platforms for their science, including orbiters, landers, rovers, airplanes and aerobots."

       Next year, NASA plans to initiate a competition for small Scout missions to the red planet to broadly involve the scientific and aerospace communities in the Mars Exploration Program. "We have used this opportunity to be as inclusive as possible to engage the broadest possible cross-section of the community," said Orlando Figueroa, Mars Program director at NASA Headquarters. The 10 concepts selected today will not be given any advantage in that competition.

       The selected mission concepts, and the principal investigators, are: - Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars: Dr. Laurie Leshin, Arizona State University, Tempe. This innovative mission would sample atmospheric dust and gas using aerogel and use a "free-return trajectory" to bring the samples back to Earth. - KittyHawk: Dr. Wendy Calvin, University of Nevada, Reno. A mission involving three gliders would explore the composition and stratigraphy of the walls of Valles Marineris in ways not possible for orbiters and landers. - Urey: Dr. Jeff Plescia, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz. A surface rover would allow the absolute ages of geological materials to be remotely determined for the first time on any planet. - Mars Atmospheric Constellation Observatory: Dr. Robert Kursinski, University of Arizona, Tucson. A network of microsatellites as a constellation around Mars would characterize the 3-D structure of the atmosphere, giving a new look at Martian climatology. - Artemis: Dr. David Paige, University of California, Los Angeles. Three small landers and microrovers on the Martian surface, with two directed to the polar regions, would explore the surface and shallow subsurface for water, organic materials and climate. - Mars Environmental Observer: Dr. Michael Janssen, JPL. This science orbiter would intensively explore the role of water, dust, ice and other materials within the Martian atmosphere to understand parts of the hydrologic cycle. - Pascal: Dr. Rob Haberle, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. A network of 24 weather stations on the Martian surface would provide more than two years of continuous monitoring of humidity, pressure and temperature and other measurements. - Mars Scout Radar: Dr. Bruce Campbell, Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. An orbiter mission would use synthetic aperture radar imaging to map the surface geomorphology and very shallow subsurface (three to five meters deep, or about 10 to 16 feet), to detect buried water channels and other features. - The Naiades: Dr. Bob Grimm, Blackhawk GeoServices, Golden, Colo. Four landers would explore for subsurface liquid water using a novel low-frequency sounding method. - CryoScout: Dr. Frank Carsey, JPL. This mission, designed to use heated water jets to descend through martian polar ice caps, could potentially probe to depths of tens to hundreds of meters, or yards, while measuring composition and searching for organic compounds.

       For more information about Mars Exploration see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov.


Contacts: Mary Hardin (818) 354-0344
JPL Media Relations Office

2001-127

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