UCLA/TRW/JPL Team Awarded Mars Scout Study Grant
13 Jun 2001
(Source: University of California at Los Angeles)
University of California Los Angeles
Multi-lander Approach Could Answer Fundamental Questions About Mars Water Cycle, Geologic History
A UCLA-led team including TRW and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has been awarded a six-month, $150,000 study grant by NASA to refine the concept for a mission to Mars that would deploy a series of small robotic science probes on the planet's surface as early as 2008.
Data gathered by the proposed Artemis Multi-Scout Mission could help scientists answer fundamental questions about the possibility of life on Mars, the distribution and behavior of water on the red planet, and the nature of geologic processes that created the layered deposits in the Mars polar regions.
Artemis is one of several concepts proposed by the science community for study as precursors to NASA's Mars Scout missions, a series of principal-investigator-led, $300 million missions intended to complement the science goals of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. NASA expects to release the Announcement of Opportunity for the first Mars Scout mission in 2002.
"Artemis offers NASA a powerful, cost-effective way to follow up on key science discoveries made by the core Mars Exploration missions and to scout potential landing sites for future Mars missions," said UCLA professor David A. Paige, the Artemis principal investigator. "TRW's expertise in spacecraft engineering and manufacturing coupled with JPL's lander experience will help the Artemis science team refine the plan for this mission."
The Artemis concept comprises a "mother ship" launched into orbit around Mars carrying up to four flying-saucer-like "landers," each about 2 feet in diameter. Over the course of several months, the orbiter would "aim" and release the landers one at a time with high precision to a variety of Mars latitudes and locations. Each lander would parachute to the Martian surface, where it would use its payload of science instruments to collect data about the soils and atmosphere near the landing sites. The science data would be relayed back to Earth via the Artemis orbiter or other spacecraft orbiting Mars.
Over the next six months, the UCLA/TRW/JPL team will refine the Artemis mission concept, focusing in particular on lander deployment and targeting techniques required for high precision landing, and the manufacturing technologies required to produce several high reliability landers in parallel at a reasonable cost.
"During our study, we will be looking at all aspects of the feasibility of the mission, paying special attention to minimizing risk," said Paige. "Having multiple landers will really improve our flexibility with this mission. We will be able to target more than one landing site and gain experience with every landing."