NASA will continue to explore Mars with a new exploration strategy in fiscal year 1995. The Mars Surveyor program calls for start of development of a small orbiter that will be launched in November 1996 to study the surface of the red planet.

The Mars Surveyor orbiter will lay the foundation for a series of missions to Mars in a decade-long program of Mars exploration. The missions will take advantage of launch opportunities about every two years as Mars comes into alignment with Earth.

NASA requested $77 million in development costs in FY 1995 for the new Mars orbiter. The announcement was made during NASA's press briefing on the 1995 budget request. The 1995 fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 1994, to Sept. 30, 1995.

The Mars Surveyor program will be conducted within the constraints of a cost ceiling of approximately $100 million per year. The orbiter will be small enough to be launched on a Delta expendable launch vehicle and will carry roughly half of the science payload that flew on Mars Observer, which was lost on Aug. 21, 1993. The specific instruments will be selected later.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will issue a request for proposals to industry in mid-March to solicit potential spacecraft designs. Selection of a contractor to build the spacecraft will be made by July 1.

NASA envisions an orbiter/lander pair of spacecraft as the next in this series of robotic missions to Mars.

The orbiter planned for launch in 1998 would be even smaller than the initial Mars Surveyor orbiter and carry the remainder of the Mars Observer science instruments. It would act as a communications relay satellite for a companion lander, launched the same year, and other landers in the future, such as the Russian Mars '96 lander. The U.S. Pathfinder lander, set to land on Mars in 1997, will operate independently of the Mars orbiter.

The 1998 orbiter/lander spacecraft would be small enough to be launched on an expendable launch vehicle about half the size and cost of the Delta launch vehicle.

JPL will manage mission design and spacecraft operations of the Mars Surveyor for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

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