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  Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
  NASA's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG)

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Author Topic:   NASA's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG)
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-27-2012 10:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Official Announces Chair of New Mars Program Planning Group

NASA' s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, has named former veteran NASA program manager Orlando Figueroa to lead a newly established Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) tasked to reformulate the agency's Mars Exploration Program. Figueroa's first assignment is to develop a draft framework for review by March 15.

Grunsfeld made the announcement at an annual gathering of Mars scientists and engineers in Dulles, Va. Figueroa, a consultant with more than 30 years of aerospace experience, will lead the scientific and technical team to develop an integrated strategy for NASA's Mars Exploration Program in light of current funding constraints. The team's initial focus will be on a possible 2018-2020 robotic mission. The program's official framework will be developed in consultation with the science community and international partners and is expected to be released for full review as early as this summer.

"The team will develop a plan that advances the priorities in the National Research Council's Decadal Survey, which puts sample return as the top scientific goal, and leverages NASA's research in enabling technology," Grunsfeld said. "Our investments in the new Mars program will incorporate elements of advanced research and technologies in support of a logical sequence of missions to answer fundamental scientific questions and ultimately support the goal of sending people to Mars."

The MPPG will report to Grunsfeld, a physicist and five-time flown space shuttle astronaut. Grunsfeld is chairing the overall, agency-wide reformulation strategy along with William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations directorate, NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck. The MPPG will ensure that America maintains the critical technical skills developed over decades needed to achieve the highest priority science and exploration objectives.

NASA has a recognized track record of successful Mars missions. The rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004, is still operating despite an official mission timeline of 90 days. There are also two NASA satellites orbiting the Red Planet; the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey. The duo continue to return unprecedented science data and images. This August, NASA will land the Mars Science Laboratory, "Curiosity," on the planet's surface. This roving science laboratory will assess whether Mars was or is today an environment able to support life. In 2013, NASA will launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution orbiter, the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.

NASA will continue to gather critical information to help scientists understand the Red Planet. These data will be used in future years to meet President Obama's challenge to send humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.

"We'll look at all of the assets NASA is developing to reach, explore and study Mars, as well as spacecraft at or on its way to Mars," Figueroa said.

NASA already has been developing technology that will improve precision in landing, the ability to conduct scientific analysis remotely, handle and collect samples, and transmit larger volumes of data back to Earth.

"The science and engineering communities have worked continuously over a decade to define our knowledge gaps for Mars exploration, so we have a solid starting point," Grunsfeld said.

Mars exploration is a top priority for NASA. America's investment in exploring Mars during the past decade totals $6.1 billion. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden directed Grunsfeld to lead the agency-wide team in order to optimize a coordinated strategy of Mars exploration and continue America's leadership role in the exploration of the Red Planet within available future budgets.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-13-2012 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Planning Group Takes Key Steps for Future Mars Exploration

NASA's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), established to assist the agency in developing a new strategy for the exploration of the Red Planet, has begun analyzing options for future robotic missions and enlisting the assistance of scientists and engineers worldwide.

NASA is reformulating the Mars Exploration Program to be responsive to high-priority science goals and the President's challenge of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

"We're moving quickly to develop options for future Mars exploration missions and pathways," said John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist, five-time space shuttle astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "As part of this process, community involvement, including international, is essential for charting the new agency-wide strategy for our future Mars exploration efforts."

Grunsfeld leads the agency-wide Mars program reformulation effort along with William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and Chief Technologist Mason Peck.

In February, Grunsfeld named veteran aerospace engineer Orlando Figueroa to lead the MPPG. In March, the group established an initial draft framework of milestones and activities that will include options for missions and sequences bridging the objectives of NASA's science, human exploration and operations and technology.

Starting today, the scientific and technical community across the globe can submit ideas and abstracts online as part of NASA's effort to seek out the best and the brightest ideas from researchers and engineers in planetary science. Selected abstracts will be presented during a workshop in June hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

The workshop will provide an open forum for presentation, discussion and consideration of concepts, options, capabilities and innovations to advance Mars exploration. These ideas will inform a strategy for exploration within available resources, beginning as early as 2018 and stretching into the next decade and beyond.

"Receiving input from our community is vital to energize the planning process," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. "We'll integrate inputs to ensure the next steps for the Mars Exploration Program will support science, as well as longer-term human exploration and technology goals."

The new strategy also will be designed to maintain America's critical technical skills, developed over decades, to achieve the highest priority science and exploration objectives.

NASA has a recognized track record of successful missions on Mars, and exploration of the planet is a priority for the agency. The rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004, is still operating well beyond its official mission of 90 days. There also are two NASA satellites, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, orbiting Mars and returning unprecedented science data and images.

In August, NASA will land the Mars Science Laboratory, "Curiosity," on the planet's surface. This roving science laboratory will assess whether Mars was in the past or present an environment able to support life. In 2013, NASA will launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution orbiter, the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-25-2012 06:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mars Program Planning Group Summary Report Released

NASA's Mars Program Planning Group released (PDF) its summary report today (Sept. 25). The report's "bottom line" is:
  • MPPG explored many options and alternatives for creating a meaningful collaboration between science and human exploration of Mars, while leveraging and focusing technology investments towards a common goal.

  • The MPPG finds that sample return architectures provide a promising intersection of objectives and integrated strategy for long term SMD/HEOMD/STP collaboration

  • Multiple program architectures can be assembled by varying the scope, sequence, and risk posture assumed for the building blocks provided and analyzed by MPPG; NASA can choose from these to build a program strategy consistent with its long term objectives
The report lays out a series of options that NASA could employ for a Mars sample return mission. The space agency is now considering the group's findings and could announce its chosen path by early next year, when the White House releases its proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.

"Sample-return represents the best opportunity to find symmetry technologically between the programs," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said. "Sending a mission to go to Mars and return a sample looks a lot like sending a crew to Mars and returning them safely."

Astronauts could even be involved in the sample-return process, according to the report. Crew members on NASA's Orion spacecraft could intercept the sample return probe in deep space, secure it in a contained environment, and bring it safely down to Earth.

"It is taking advantage of the human architecture, because we anticipate it will be there," Grunsfeld said. "And it potentially solves an issue of, when we return samples, somewhere we have to make sure that the samples are completely contained so there's no chance — remote as it may be — that there is something on Mars that could contaminate Earth."

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