Mars Planning Updates

    Update 4
    Orlando Figueroa – Chair, Mars Program Planning Group

    Greetings fellow Martians!

    I am guessing that by now everyone is wondering what has happened to the final MPPG report, since we promised to post it on this website by the end of October. Sandy delayed things a little, but not a good excuse since we Martians should be used to severe storms of the dusty kind. Our hearts and thoughts are with the so many that have been affected!

    The final report was delivered to NASA in October. The content as described in the Summary Report remains unchanged, and we have added supporting details via several appendices. NASA is completing an editorial review process for grammar, clarity, consistency and the like, and we are making edits where appropriate.

    The expectation is that the final report will be posted ahead of a presentation of the report to the NASA Advisory Council's Science Committee and Human Exploration & Operations Committee on November 14, 2012.

    Many, many thanks for the continued interest in Mars Exploration. I am exceedingly proud of the product, and thankful to the team (core and extended) for their contribution. On to Mars!

    Update 3
    Orlando Figueroa – Chair, Mars Program Planning Group

    Hello fellow Martians!

    After the great success of the Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration Workshop held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in June, the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) went to work to further study some of the ideas and concepts discussed. Engineering efforts were started to explore out of the box ideas to implement sample return, where science return is traded for cost. In the meantime, other team members continued to refine concepts for orbiters and landers, and to conduct independent cost estimates on these.

    On July 18, we presented an outline of the key chapters of the final report to the NASA Associate Administrators for Science and Human Exploration, and the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist. The topics discussed included: Science/Science Implementation, the Infusion of LPI Workshop Ideas and Concepts, Synergies Between Science and Human Exploration, and Opportunities for Technology Infusion. There was a fair amount of discussion among the conveners on the options being brought forth as part of the report, as well as the human health risks associated with a journey to Mars. The discussions provided good feedback and information ahead of the MPPG presentation at the joint session of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Science Committee and Human Exploration and Operations Committee.

    › Mars Exploration Program Status Update by Doug McCuistion (938 KB PDF)
    › Mars Program Planning Group presentation to the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee and Human Exploration and Operations Committee (2.1 MB PDF)

    The presentation to the NAC Committees took place on July 23, and was followed by good discussions with distinguished members of the respective communities on the subjects of risk mitigation in the program architecture, education and public outreach, the LPI workshop, and the need to have someone review the decisions post-MPPG. The NAC report is not out yet, but I did receive positive feedback from some members.

    The month of August is integration time for the MPPG. For the most part, all the data and information needed to assemble the chapters of the final report is available, and now we embark on the task of putting it all together. We are scheduled to deliver a PowerPoint version of the final report at the end of August. This, of course, is taking place while we cheer and ride the roller coaster of emotions associated with the Mars Science Laboratory landing on the night of August 5, Pacific Time. We wish them the very best!

    Related links:
    › NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Science Committee
    › NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Human Exploration and Operations Committee

    Update 2
    Orlando Figueroa – Chair, Mars Program Planning Group

    Hello Martians! The last few weeks have been quite interesting on many fronts, with presentations to two very important committees: the NASA Advisory Council Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS), and the National Research Council Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS). The views of these committees are extremely relevant and important to the MPPG activities and the final products.

    › A copy of the presentation to PSS (PDF) can be viewed here, and the CAPS presentation (PDF) is here.

    The CAPS presentation included context information similar in nature to PSS, and added information regarding pathways and possible options for the robotic 2018/2020 mission opportunities.

    We are almost halfway through the process, are still evaluating options, and welcome all quality inputs and ideas as we continue forward with providing NASA some options to consider in addressing the budget and other challenges ahead.

    One of the input mechanisms we are tapping into is the Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration Workshop being conducted at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) June 12-14, 2012. The link to the program agenda for the workshop is provided below. I encourage you to visit the LPI site for more information.

    › LPI Workshop website
    › LPI Workshop Program Agenda (PDF)

    Update 1
    Orlando Figueroa – Chair, Mars Program Planning Group

    Welcome to the MPPG website! This website is the latest of many steps we are taking to provide our stakeholders and the public with an open and transparent look at our activities. On this website we plan to post documents, milestones, news, and information related to the efforts of the MPPG. Additionally, the"Mars Planning Updates" section will serve as a forum for the group to periodically share informally on our progress.

    We officially began group activities on March 19, with the goal of leading, facilitating, and engaging various support and expertise communities to accomplish two things:

    1. Delineate options for program architectures, defined in sufficient detail for NASA to be able to select high payoff mission(s) beginning with the 2018 launch opportunity.
    2. Demonstrate visible progress towards the return of samples from Mars, while continuing to advance knowledge and technology in support of exploration of Mars by humans.

    The data and information generated by our group is intended to be used by NASA to stimulate stakeholder communities’ discussion, and to facilitate the decision making process for a reformulated Mars Exploration Program. I have been asked by several members of the community, and therefore think it is important for me to emphasize, that meeting the primary scientific objectives of the 2011 National Research Council Decadal Survey for Planetary Science is very much part of our approach.

    The MPPG is setting the stage for meaningful collaborations in the exploration of the red planet. To that end we have representation from the Science Mission Directorate, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Office of the Chief Technologist, and Office of the Chief Scientist in our endeavor.

    I look forward to leading this incredible team over the next several months and am truly excited to establish plans that support the President's challenge to send humans into Mars' vicinity by the 2030s.