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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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