At the dawn of the space age, JPL prepared the way for the Apollo astronauts to reach the Moon by sending forerunner robotic missions, and in recent years we have taken on a similar role in NASA’s Journey to Mars. As the agency charts plans to send humans to the Red Planet, JPL’s trove of scientific and engineering experience at that planet will prove indispensable. In addition to robotic rovers and orbiters, JPL is developing new technologies to support future human exploration, including such initiatives as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator and a possible Mars Helicopter. To demonstrate and prove new capabilities needed for future human missions, JPL is leading the proposed Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission. An important side benefit of that mission would be experiences and information that would help us understand how to use asteroids as resources when humans embark on explorations beyond our Moon.
The Mars Exploration Directorate manages the activities and projects that are assigned to JPL by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The Program applies a successive and integrated mission approach to undertake detailed scientific explorations of Mars using orbital remote sensing and robotic landers. It has had a continuous presence of both landers/rovers and orbiters since the early 2000s.
The Solar System Exploration Directorate studies the Solar System by investigating the formation and evolution of Solar System bodies, searching for evidence of life on the ocean moons of Saturn and Jupiter, and undertaking detailed analyses of Solar System environments in preparation for possible future human spaceflight missions.
The Interplanetary Network Directorate (IND) is JPL’s programmatic focal point for deep space communications, navigation, and mission operations, and performs world-class Solar System science and astrophysics. The IND is responsible for the design, development, operation, and services for three of NASA’s key mission-enabling systems: the Deep Space Network (DSN), the Advanced Multi-Mission Operations System (AMMOS), and the Planetary Data System (PDS) support nodes.