Monday, December 28, 2009

Decadal Survey Missions in Study - The Official List

Steven Squyres, chair of the on-going planetary Decadal Survey, publishes letters every two months updating the planetary community on the status of the Survey.  In the latest letter, he lists the approved list of missions that are undergoing study as possible recommendations.  This is a shorter list than in my summary from the Survey update given at the AGU conference.  It's not clear if some of the missions on the latter list were not approved or just haven't been considered yet.

You can find the full text of these letters at  The links invoke Java scripts rather than URLs.  Search for 'Letters from Steve Squyres'

The following text is quoted from his December 2009 letter:

A major focus of the Steering Group meeting was the latest set of mission study requests from the panels. These were based largely on white paper input, and a number of new studies were approved and initiated.

Three of the new studies are of the type known as "Rapid Mission Architecture" studies. These are high-level studies of overall mission architecture that we expect to take a few weeks. The  purpose of these studies is to explore the trade space for a specific mission candidate, in order to identify a "point design" for a possible subsequent full mission study. The three new Rapid Mission Architecture studies are:

1) Saturn atmospheric probe (JPL)
2) Main belt asteroid lander with possible mobility (APL)
3) Chiron orbiter (Goddard)

There are also two new full mission studies. These will be more time-consuming and labor-intensive, and are intended to take these mission concepts to the point where they are ready for a full independent cost estimate. The two new full mission studies are:

1) Jupiter-orbiting Io mission (JPL)
2) Ganymede mission (JPL)

In addition, three more mission concept studies have been identified that have already been done to a level of maturity such that an independent cost estimate should be possible. Those three mission concepts are:

1) Lunar network mission studied to date by Marshall and APL
2) MAX-C Mars rover and sample cacheing mission studied to date by JPL
3) Europa Jupiter system mission studied to date by JPL

These mission concepts join previously announced selections from the October letter:

The six Rapid Mission Architecture studies are:

 * Mercury lander mission (APL)
 * Venus near-surface mobile explorer mission (Goddard)
 * Mars 2018 skycrane capabilities study (JPL)
 * Uranus system mission (APL)
 * Neptune/Triton mission (JPL)
 * Enceladus flyby/sample return mission (JPL) 

 Full mission studies:

 * Mars trace gas orbiter mission (Goddard)
 * Titan lake mission (JPL)

There is also one small study to be conducted by JPL that doesn't fit any of the above categories; this study will identify possible targets for Near Earth Object missions.

Those two mission concepts ready for cost estimates:

 * Mars trace gas orbiter mission studied to date by JPL
 * Comet surface sample return mission studied to date by APL.

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