Thursday, August 6, 2009

MEPAG Meeting part 1

The last MEPAG meeting had a full agenda with lots of information on future Mars plans.

Marcello Coradini from ESA presented that agency's current plans for the 2016 and 2018 missions. As related in previous posts, the current plan is for NASA to launch an ESA trace gas orbiter and engineering entry and descent test in 2016. In 2018, NASA will launch a mid-range rover of its own and ESA's ExoMars rover; the 2016 orbiter will provide data relay. The 2016 lander will be strictly an engineering test powered by batteries with only test instrumentation and a camera. (And since the current idea is to send the lander to an utterly safe destinations like Meridiani, don't expect exciting new vistas. The lander design could be reused for a 2020 network landers mission. The presentation states that more money will be needed for this new plan than the old one. Per the Nature article (see previous post), it looks like the additional money may be available since the ESA member states have given their okay.

Editorial thoughts: The new Mars plan is starting to sound quite ambitious. I am concerned that (1) missions will keep within their cost targets (rovers are hard and biology instruments probably more so) and (2) the additional funds will be available. I hope that I'm wrong.


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