Rationale and Proposed Design for a Mars Sample Return (MSR) Science Program

Timothy Haltigin, Ernst Hauber, Gerhard Kminek, Michael A. Meyer, Carl B. Agee, Henner Busemann, Brandi L. Carrier, Daniel P. Glavin, Lindsay E. Hays, Bernard Marty, Lisa M. Pratt, Arya Udry, Maria Paz Zorzano, David W. Beaty, Barbara Cavalazzi, Charles S. Cockell, Vinciane Debaille, Monica M. Grady, Aurore Hutzler, Francis M. McCubbinAaron B. Regberg, Alvin L. Smith, Caroline L. Smith, Roger E. Summons, Timothy D. Swindle, Kimberly T. Tait, Nicholas J. Tosca, Tomohiro Usui, Michael A. Velbel, Meenakshi Wadhwa, Frances Westall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Mars Sample Return (MSR) Campaign represents one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors ever undertaken. Analyses of the martian samples would offer unique science benefits that cannot be attained through orbital or landed missions that rely only on remote sensing and in situ measurements, respectively. As currently designed, the MSR Campaign comprises a number of scientific, technical, and programmatic bodies and relationships, captured in a series of existing and anticipated documents. Ensuring that all required scientific activities are properly designed, managed, and executed would require significant planning and coordination. Because there are multiple scientific elements that would need to be executed to achieve MSR Campaign success, it is critical to ensure that the appropriate management, oversight, planning, and resources are made available to accomplish them. This could be achieved via a formal MSR Science Management Plan (SMP). A subset of the MSR Science Planning Group 2 (MSPG2)-termed the SMP Focus Group-was tasked to develop inputs for an MSR Campaign SMP. The scope is intended to cover the interface to the Mars 2020 mission, science elements in the MSR flight program, ground-based science infrastructure, MSR science opportunities, and the MSR sample and science data management. In this report, a comprehensive MSR Science Program is proposed that comprises specific science bodies and/or activities that could be implemented to address the science functionalities throughout the MSR Campaign. The proposed structure was designed by taking into consideration previous management review processes, a set of guiding principles, and key lessons learned from previous robotic exploration and sample return missions. The Mars Sample Return (MSR) Campaign represents one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors ever undertaken. Analyses of the martian samples would offer unique science benefits that cannot be attained through orbital or landed missions that rely only on remote sensing and in situ measurements, respectively. Ensuring that all required scientific activities are properly designed, managed, and executed would require significant planning and coordination. As currently designed, the MSR Campaign comprises a number of scientific, technical, and programmatic bodies and relationships, captured in a series of existing and anticipated documents. Because there are so many scientific elements that would need to be executed to achieve MSR Campaign success, it is critical to ensure that the appropriate management, oversight, planning, and resources are made available to accomplish them. To date, however, no dedicated budget lines within NASA and ESA have been made available for these purposes, and no formal MSR Science Management Plan (SMP) has yet been established. It is thus evident that: A joint ESA/NASA MSR Science Program, along with the necessary funding and resources, will be required to accomplish the end-To-end scientific objectives of MSR. To aid in planning, the MSR Science Program requires an overarching SMP to fully describe how it could be implemented to meet the MSR scientific objectives and maximize the overall science return. A subset of the MSR Science Planning Group 2 (MSPG2)-termed the SMP Focus Group-was tasked to develop inputs for the MSR Campaign SMP. The scope covers the interface to the Mars 2020 mission, science elements in the MSR flight program, ground-based science infrastructure, MSR science opportunities, and the MSR sample and science data management. Some of the required bodies and activities already exist; the remainder require definition. In this report, a comprehensive MSR Science Program is proposed, comprising specific science bodies and/or activities that could be implemented to address the science functionalities throughout the MSR Campaign. The proposed structure was designed by taking into consideration previous management review processes, a set of guiding principles, and key lessons learned from previous robotic exploration and sample return missions. While we acknowledge that the proposal is non-unique, that is, other implementations could meet the overall needs of the MSR Campaign, we have striven to optimize efficiencies and eliminate unnecessary overlap wherever possible to reduce the potential cost and complexity of the MSR Science Program. Many elements of the proposed Science Program are interdependent, as the decision to trigger certain bodies or activities depend on reaching key milestones throughout the MSR Campaign. Although the timing of certain elements may be flexible depending on the anticipated date of samples arriving on Earth, it is crucial that others are implemented as soon as is feasible. As a first step, formalizing the Science Program's management structure as soon as possible would ensure that impending time-sensitive trades are conducted, and the resulting decisions are made with adequate scientific input. FINDING SMP-1: A joint science management structure and documented agreements among the MSR Partners are required to coordinate the MSR Science Program elements that are not currently defined in existing structures or documents. FINDING SMP-2: A long-Term ESA/NASA MSR Science Program, along with the necessary funding and human resources, will be required to accomplish the end-To-end scientific objectives of MSR. FINDING SMP-3: The MSR Science Management Plan should be linked to, but not encompass, other required functionalities within the MSR Campaign. Input will be needed to produce formal plans for (at a minimum) curation, planetary protection, data management, and public engagement. FINDING SMP-4: The guiding principles proposed in the MSR Science Planning Group (MSPG) Framework document (2019c) remain appropriate and relevant and should be utilized in drafting the MSR Science Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Science Management Plan. FINDING SMP-5 (a): MSR scientific return would be maximized if participation in the MSR Science Program is not limited to scientists sponsored by existing MSR Partners; rather, opportunities should be provided to scientists from around the world. (b) All programmatic decision-making power (e.g., selection of competitive proposals) would still rest with the Partners. FINDING SMP-6: At the implementation level, the MSR Science Program should, wherever possible, leverage structures, programs, and lessons-learned from previous mission organization to benefit from their experiences to engender familiarity among both decision-makers and the science community. FINDING SMP-7: The MSR Science Program requires the establishment of scientific bodies to meet management, science operations, and public participation needs. These bodies require dedicated funding, addressing scientific functionalities that span the entirety of the MSR Campaign. FINDING SMP-8: Some elements of the MSR Science Program cannot be delayed in the event of an MSR Program schedule delay, as they are linked to key decisions or operations of the Mars 2020 mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S27-S56
JournalAstrobiology
Volume22
Issue numberS1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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