Artist's concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Artist's concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
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NASA today announced the selection of 10 scientific investigations as part of the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission. The 2005 mission will carry six primary instruments that will greatly enhance the search for evidence of water, take images of objects about the size of a beach ball, and search for future landing sites on the martian surface. The investigations selected include two principal investigator instrument investigations and eight facility team leader or member investigations.

The two proposals to be led by principal investigators, selected by Dr. Edward Weiler, associate administrator for space science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. , were judged to have the highest science value among the 26 proposals submitted to NASA in August 2001 in response to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 2005 announcement of opportunity.

"A new generation of reconnaissance instruments on this orbiter with unprecedented capabilities will pave the way for identifying the most compelling sites on Mars for sample return and ultimately for human exploration," said Weiler.

The two principal investigator instrument investigations selected are:

- An ultra-high resolution, multi-color, stereo imaging system, led by principal investigator Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, in partnership with Ball Aerospace Corp., Boulder, Colo., at a total developmental cost of $31 million. The instrument will provide color stereo images of the Martian surface at six times higher resolution than any existing images, and is expected to improve understanding of surface processes related to water and to help identify future landing sites.

- A hyperspectral imaging spectrometer for mineralogical mapping, led by principal investigator Dr. Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., at a total cost of $17.6 million. The instrument will provide extremely high-resolution hyperspectral images of areas on Mars in wavelengths from .4 to 4 micrometers (visible to short-wave infrared) for identifying key mineralogical indicators of water and hydrothermal systems at spatial scales smaller than a football field. Such data will be vital for targeting future landed missions.

The other selected investigations, described below, involve the analysis of data from mission-provided facility instruments and spacecraft engineering systems.

- Facility science team scientists affiliated with the Italian Space Agency's shallow-subsurface sounding radar are: Dr. Roger Phillips of Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Dr. Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena; and Dr. Bruce Campbell of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

- Facility science team member scientists associated with gravity measurements that can be achieved with the spacecraft are: team leader Dr. Maria T. Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and team members Dr. Frank Lemoine of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Dr. Alex Konopliv of JPL.

- Facility science team members selected for the accelerometer science team are: team leader Dr. Gerald Keating of the George Washington University, Washington, and NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and Dr. Stephen Bougher of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Other instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, not solicited by this opportunity, constitute re-flights of experiments lost with the failure of the Mars Climate Orbiter mission.

The specific scientific objectives of the Reconnaissance Orbiter mission include researching the processes of present and past climate change on Mars, searching the surface and shallow-subsurface for sites that show evidence of water-related activity, investigating the processes that are responsible for the formation of the ubiquitous layers that have been observed on Mars, and probing the shallow-subsurface to identify regions where three-dimensional layering could indicate the presence of ice or possibly lenses of liquid water.

The 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission represents an integrated scientific-observation platform that will bring together teams from universities, industry, NASA centers, and other organizations. The spacecraft will be developed by Lockheed-Martin Astronautics, Denver, and is scheduled for launch to Mars in August 2005.

NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, Dr. Jim Garvin, said, "NASA views the mission as the essential 'scientific gateway' to the future of landed and sample return missions in its core Mars Exploration Program, as well as an incredible mission of scientific discovery."

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by the Mars Exploration Program at JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Mars program director is Orlando Figueroa; the lead scientist for Mars exploration is Dr. Jim Garvin; the orbiter program executive is Dr. Ramon Depaula; and the orbiter program scientist is Dr. Dave Senske. The Mars program manager at JPL is Dr. Firouz Naderi; the project scientist is Dr. Richard Zurek; and the project manager is James Graf.

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