NASA Selects 10 Investigations for 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Press Release From: NASA HQ
Posted: Friday, November 9, 2001

NASA today announced the selection of 10 scientific investigations as part of the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mission. The 2005 MRO will carry six primary instruments that will greatly enhance the search for evidence of water, take images of objects about the size of a beach ball, and search for future landing sites on the Martian surface. The investigations selected include two Principal Investigator (PI) Instrument Investigations and eight Facility Team Leader or Member Investigations.

The two PI Instrument proposals selected by Dr. Edward Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, were judged to have the highest science value among the 26 proposals submitted to NASA in August 2001 in response to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 2005 Announcement of Opportunity.

"A new generation of reconnaissance instruments on MRO with unprecedented capabilities will pave the way for identifying the most compelling sites on Mars for sample return and ultimately for human exploration," said Weiler.

The two PI instruments selected are:

- HiRISE, an ultra-high resolution, multi-color, stereo imaging system. Principal Investigator is Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, in partnership with Ball Aerospace Corp., Boulder, Colo., at a total developmental cost of $31 million. The HiRISE instrument will provide color stereo images of the Martian surface at six times higher resolution than any existing images, and is expected to improve understanding of surface processes related to water and to help identify future landing sites.

- CRISM, a hyperspectral imaging spectrometer for mineralogical mapping. Principal Investigator is Dr. Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., at a total cost of $17.6 million. The CRISM instrument will provide extremely high resolution hyperspectral images of areas on Mars in wavelengths from 0.4 to 4.0 micrometers (visible to shortwave infrared) for identifying key mineralogical indicators of water and hydrothermal systems at spatial scales smaller than a football field. Such data will be vital for targeting future landed missions.

The other selected investigations, described below, involve the analysis of data from mission-provided facility instruments and spacecraft engineering systems.

- Facility Science team scientists affiliated with the Italian Space Agency facility's shallow-subsurface sounding radar (SHARAD) are: Dr. Roger Phillips of Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Dr. Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; and Dr. Bruce Campbell of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

- Facility Science team member scientists associated with gravity measurements that can be achieved with the MRO spacecraft are: Team Leader Dr. Maria T. Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and team members Dr. Frank Lemoine of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Dr. Alex Konopiliv of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology.

- Facility science team members selected for the accelerometer science team are: Team Leader Dr. Gerald Keating of The George Washington University, Washington, and NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and Dr. Stephen Bougher of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Other instruments on board MRO, not solicited by this opportunity, constitute reflights of experiments lost with the failure of the Mars Climate Orbiter mission.

The specific scientific objectives of the MRO mission include: researching the processes of present and past climate change on Mars, searching the surface and shallow-subsurface for sites that show evidence of water-related activity, investigating the processes that are responsible for the formation of the ubiquitous layers that have been observed on Mars, and probing the shallow-subsurface to identify regions where three-dimensional layering could indicate the presence of ice or possibly lenses of liquid water.

The 2005 MRO mission represents an integrated scientific-observation platform that will bring together teams from universities, industry, NASA centers, and other organizations. The spacecraft will be developed by Lockheed-Martin Astronautics, Denver, and is scheduled for launch to Mars in August 2005.

NASA's Lead Scientist for Mars Exploration, Dr. Jim Garvin, said, "NASA views the MRO mission as the essential 'scientific gateway' to the future of landed and sample return missions in its core Mars Exploration Program, as well as an incredible mission of scientific discovery."

The MRO mission is managed by the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA's Office of Space Science. Mars Program Director is Orlando Figueroa; the Lead Scientist for Mars Exploration is Dr. Jim Garvin; the MRO Program Executive is Dr. Ramon Depaula; and the MRO Program Scientist is Dr. Dave Senske. The Mars Program Manager at JPL is Dr. Firouz Naderi; the Project Scientist is Dr. Richard Zurek; and the Project Manager is James Graf.

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