Future of Mars exploration

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alokmohan

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n the mid-1990s the U.S. embarked on a new strategy for exploring the Red Planet. In response to the 1993 failure of the Mars Observer mission—a billion-dollar, decade-in-the-making probe that mysteriously lost contact with ground controllers just before it was scheduled to go into orbit around the planet—NASA administrator Daniel Goldin decided to shift to smaller, less expensive spacecraft and create a sustained exploration campaign by sending one or two probes to Mars at every launch opportunity. (These opportunities come every two years or so, when Earth and Mars are properly aligned.) The new strategy spread out the inherent risk of interplanetary travel and ensured that the engineering experience and scientific data acquired by one mission could be rapidly used by the next. The approach has proved a brilliant success, putting three NASA spacecraft into orbit around Mars and three rovers on the planet’s surface (Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity). The Phoenix Mars Lander, which left Earth in August, is expected to reach the Red Planet next May, and NASA plans to launch the Mars Science Lab in 2009.<br /><br />Subsequent missions are in jeopardy, however. Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, warned in July that at least one of the future Mars probes may have to be scrapped to free up funding for a much costlier mission, tentatively scheduled for the 2018–2020 period, that would collect samples of Martian rock and bring them to Earth. Moreover, highly placed scientists and program leaders report that the new plan may actually require the sacrifice of all other Mars spacecraft after 2009.<br /><br />Putting aside the question of whether the redirected funds would actually be devoted to the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, such a reorganization would be a very bad idea. A one-shot mission to bring Martian rocks to Earth for laboratory analysis is not really a good way to address the central question of Mars science. Th
 
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Swampcat

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Alokmohan,<br /><br />Obviously, cut and paste is something that gives you trouble <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" />.<br /><br />The link you provided should be http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=dont-wreck-the-mars-program&sc=PR_20071220. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="3" color="#ff9900"><p><font size="1" color="#993300"><strong><em>------------------------------------------------------------------- </em></strong></font></p><p><font size="1" color="#993300"><strong><em>"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."</em></strong></font></p><p><font size="1" color="#993300"><strong>Thomas Jefferson</strong></font></p></font> </div>
 
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vulture2

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Though launched in 2003, the MER program was started under the "better-faster-cheaper" era. link. There are advantages to bigger individual missions, but it's hard for me to see the advantage of returning a few small samples from one location, when we have an entire and probably very diverse planet with a srface as large as the land area of the Earth to explore, and more sites could be investigated with a larger number of smaller probes. <br />
 
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