Mars Sample Return Proposal Stirs Excitement, Controversy

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scottb50

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Mars Sample Return Proposal Stirs Excitement, Controversy<br /><br />Leonard David<br />Space News Correspondent<br />SPACE.com <br /><br />PASADENA, Calif. -- Proposals for a multibillion dollar Mars sample return mission - perhaps even a comprehensive sample return program - appear to be on the front burner again, but not without controversy.<br />ADVERTISEMENT<br /><br />It turns out, Alan Stern, NASA's new associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, is a big proponent of Mars sample return. But while many NASA planetary scientists share that sentiment, a number of others also worry that such an ambitious mission - Stern estimates it could cost from $3 billion to $4 billion - would suck up all the available money for most other Mars missions in the next decade and disrupt NASA's ability to send at least one robotic mission to Mars every two years.<br /><br />http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20070726/sc_space/marssamplereturnproposalstirsexcitementcontroversy;_ylt=AnK8l9Ly9uoc9MiPpthaQRgE1vAI<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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vulture2

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I am not sure I understand Stern's point that the Mars budget will get smaller unless there is a sample return mission. If it's scientifically productive, why change it? Mars has as much dry land surface area as the earth; every time a new site is investigated, new discoveries are made. A sample return brings back just a tiny piece of one site. Rovers can sample thousands of sites, with instrumentation that is steadily improving.<br /><br />The nuclear-powered MSL will be a vast improvement in productivity over the current rovers, but we have not even budgeted for a second MSL. A small fleet of nuclear rovers dispersed across the planet might be more scientifically productive than the same money spent on a sample return mission.<br /><br />I would hope that our strategy is not that the best course is the one that maximizes the Mars budget; the most desirable course is the one that maximizes our understanding of the planet as a whole.
 
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JonClarke

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There is still scope for cheap missions - net landers for example, or penetrators. Impacts are another interesing line. But people rightly realise that the time is approaching when we will have to step up to the next level - MSR.<br /><br />There are many reasons for sample return. There is a wealth of information that can be extracted from less than a gram of material that cannot be collected by rovers. Of course you would what more, preferably a kg. A whole range of instruments can be applied that cannot be carried in provers. Proton probes, ion probes, electron probes, laser ablation ICP-MS, tunnelling scanning electron microscopy, good old fashioned optical petrography, granulometry... The list is very long.<br /><br />MSR also develops a lot of technologies that may be required for human missions. High level field robotics, ISPP, sample handling procedures, planetary protection, and quantification of dust risks to machines and humans, for example.<br /><br />The nature of the sample returned has not been decided. There are many possibilities. Soil scoop, rake for surface rocks, drill, aerogel for airborne dust. The most sophisticated approach combines the advantages of rovers with those of MSR. A rover collects samples and chaches them for a MSR mission to return to Earth, as discussed in the article.<br /><br />The concern as to why the budget might strink without MSL is that there are diminishing returns from current missions. Most of the big questions that can be answered from orbit will be with those currently scheduled. Phoenix will probably be the last large stationary lander. Rovers are turning up lots of new information, but eventually, after a half dozen missions perhaps, they will be into diminishing returns as well. <br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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gunsandrockets

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UPDATE!<br /><br />International Group Plans Strategy for Mars Sample Return Mission<br /><br /><...a number of others also worry that such an ambitious mission - Stern estimates it could cost from $3 billion to $4 billion - would suck up all the available money for most other Mars missions in the next decade and disrupt NASA's ability to send at least one robotic mission to Mars every two years. /><br /><br />Even so, it appears that this 'cadilliac' mission is going to happen!<br />
 
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JonClarke

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Cool! Let's hope we see it in 10 years or so.<br /><br />From what I have read, 4-5 billion might be optimistic, 5-6 might be more like it. But still worth doing for many reasons.<br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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gunsandrockets

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<MSR also develops a lot of technologies that may be required for human missions. High level field robotics, ISPP, sample handling procedures, planetary protection, and quantification of dust risks to machines and humans, for example. ><br /><br />Any clue which design direction IMARS is likely to follow? As a precursor to any manned mission to Mars, the sample return mission will settle most of the issues about back contamination and possibly fix the method (if any) for ISPP. Though as expensive as MSR is claimed it wouldn't surprise me if no ISPP is used. I have seen as least one paper that claimed that for a small MSR mission there is no net cost benefit to using ISPP in favor of conventional hypergolic propellants.
 
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JonClarke

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I agree, I suspect that they wn't go with ISPP. <br /><br />But from what I have read, no ISPP means that things get very ugly fast. Multiple large boosters and with MOR, maybe even EOR as well, all for miniscule payloads (100 grams or so).<br /><br />With ISPP you can get a lot more sample (say a kg or more) with just one medium sized launcher (delta II or similar). But of of course to some ISPP to be a major risk in itself, bigger than either MOR or robotic EOR. <br /><br />Plus to others anything that smacks of a human mission precursor is to be avoided, and a MSR using IPP is in effect a mini Mars Direct.<br /><br />Of course the more sample the better, and the more diverse samples the better. That is why the idea of using prelanded (and independently funded) rovers to cache samples is a good idea, IMHO. Ten 10 g sample from a range of sites are probably better than 1 kg from one site. of course 1 kg of ample collected from two dozen sites is even better.<br /><br />There are lost of other challenges as well. There will be demand for a diversity of material. People will want atmsophere, surface fines, a drill core if possible, and a range of samples across a wide area.<br /><br />Then there is the question of sample presevation. Astrobiologists will want material preserved under ambient conditions. So will people interested in any ices or unstable minerals. This will require a specialised environmental system to ensure that it does not get too hot or too cold from sample collection until it ends up in the lab. <br /><br />But the planetary protection people would like to see the whole thing heat sertilized. Or at least the exterior.<br /><br />In some ways MSR is as challenging as a human mission, except everything is done in minature on a tighter budget. Which is whyy every concept to ate as fallen through.<br /><br />The only way I have read that might do it on the cheap is SCIM.<br /><br />cheers<br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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3488

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Just think if 2007 WD5 does hit Mars next January, we will have a good site for sample return?<br /><br />IMO a lander, even if it is the testbed Mars Pathfinder with Marie Curie rover, will have to be<br />sent to the impact crater.<br /><br />Freshly excavated bed rock, it is just too good a place to ignore.<br /><br />A sample return from there would be a good plan too.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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JonClarke

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Interesting point. I guess it depends where it hits (if it hits).<br /><br />Happy Christmas!<br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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3488

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Happy Christmas to you.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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