Findings of the Moon-Mars Science Linkage Science Steering Group

Status Report From: NASA Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG)
Posted: Friday, November 5, 2004

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October 24, 2004

This report was prepared by the Moon-Mars Science Linkages Science Steering Group

  • Charles Shearer, University of New Mexico, co-Chair
  • David Beaty, Mars Program Office (JPL), co-Chair
  • Ariel D. Anbar, Arizona State University
  • Bruce Banerdt, JPL
  • Don Bogard, JSC
  • Bruce A. Campbell, Smithsonian CEPS
  • Michael Duke, Colorado School of Mines
  • Lisa Gaddis, USGS, Flagstaff
  • Brad Jolliff, Washington University
  • Rachel C.F. Lentz, University of Tennessee
  • David McKay, JSC
  • Greg Neumann, GSFC/MIT
  • Dimitri Papanastassiou, JPL
  • Roger Phillips, Washington University
  • Jeff Plescia, JHU APL
  • Mini Wadhwa, Field Museum, Chicago

This report has been approved for public release by JPL Document Review Services (CL#04-2703), and may be freely circulated. Recommended bibliographic citation:

Shearer, C., Beaty, D.W., Anbar, A.D., Banerdt, B., Bogard, D., Campbell, B.A., Duke, M., Gaddis, L., Jolliff, B., Lentz, R.C.F., McKay, D., Neumann, G., Papanastassiou, D., Phillips, R., Plescia, J., and Wadhwa, M. (2004). Findings of the Moon_Mars Science Linkage Science Steering Group. Unpublished white paper, 29 p, posted October, 2004 by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) at http://mepag/reports/index.html.


Shearer, C. and 15 co-authors, (2004). Findings of the Moon_Mars Science Linkage Science Steering Group. Unpublished white paper, 29 p, posted October, 2004 by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) at http://mepag/reports/index.html.



The new solar system exploration initiative proposed by the President of the United States refocuses NASA by establishing an exciting long-term vision that integrates robotic and human exploration programs around focused science goals and milestones. Within this new direction of solar system exploration, the scientific linkages between Moon and Mars have become increasingly important. Owing to the proximity of the Moon to Earth, there are important technological and scientific concepts that could be developed on the Moon that will provide valuable insights into both the origin and evolution of the terrestrial planets and be feed-forward to the scientific exploration of Mars. This document identifies important lunar scientific and technology goals and evaluates them with regard to how they could provide valuable insights for Mars. This evaluation is done within the context of the Mars Exploration Program as defined by the MEPAG Scientific Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities,2004 document, the vision of Moon science developed by the Lunar Exploration Science Working Group (LExSWG), and solar system exploration programs described in the Solar System Exploration Roadmap (NASA Office of Space Sciences) and New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy (NAS National Research Council). The main thrust of this document is to establish lunar-science priorities within the context of Mars exploration. On the basis of their relevance to important solar system problems, a set of lunar priorities were a consequence of this exercise and we anticipate that further discussion along these lines will continue in a different forum.

The Moon_Mars Science Linkage Science Steering Group (MMSSG) was formed within the oversight of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) in response to a request from NASA HQ to develop an analysis of the science-based activities on the lunar surface that would benefit the scientific exploration of Mars. The steering group consisted of 16 members with scientific backgrounds in varies aspects of lunar and martian science. The science steering group met through biweekly teleconferences from mid-April 2004 to the end of June 2004. The steering group and subcommittees communicated by e-mail throughout the process. The committee identified important lunar problems that remained to be addressed or reappraised. The committee then evaluated these important lunar science themes within the context of the scientific exploration of Mars. The committee also identified important technological demonstrations that would be instrumental to the scientific exploration of the Moon and Mars, and important for eventual manned occupancy of both planetary bodies. Priority criteria were established for lunar science by subcommittees and agreed to by the full steering group. One set of priority criteria was set within the context of lunar exploration and the second was set within the context of MEPAG priorities. Using these established criteria, lunar science themes and their importance to Mars exploration were prioritized. Both the lunar-science priorities on their own and the lunar-science priorities within the framework of Mars are presented in this document. In addition, the science steering group developed specific case examples of an activity on the Moon and then characterized them in terms of high-level functional requirements, with examples of how the activity would specifically benefit Mars. A draft report was circulated to the MEPAG executive committee and discussed in detail during the June 30-July 2, 2004 MEPAG meeting in Monrovia, California. Insights derived from these discussions were incorporated into this final report.

Relative Prioritization. In summary, the Moon_Mars Science Linkage Science Steering Group (MMSSG) has identified 20 science-based activities that would be of clearly defined benefit to the already prioritized scientific exploration of Mars. These activities fall into two overall groups, with 10 elements each: 1) science investigations, and 2) demonstrations of science-relevant engineering or technological approaches. The relative priority of each list of 10 elements was assessed using pre-established criteria, and in a general way, the comparative priority of the two lists can be determined. However, there was no attempt to determine the priority of the ensemble set of the derived 20 possible lunar activities relative to any of the following:

  • Options for advancing martian science by carrying out similar investigations directly at Mars.
  • Options for demonstrating technology or infrastructure at Earth, rather than at the Moon.
  • Options for advancing lunar science through alternate investigations that do not have a linkage to Mars.

The MMSSG is aware that judging scientific priority in broader context such as this commonly involves political and programmatic factors that are outside the scope of science-based prioritization, such as budget, NASA’s strategic directives, the status of existing engineering programs, and other factors. However, within the scope that MMSSG has operated, the priorities developed may provide a useful framework for NASA decision-making.

Assumptions for this Study

This analysis is based on the following lines of thought:

  • Evaluate how MEPAG‘s scientific objectives for Mars (and their derivative investigations and measurements) could be enhanced by a first application on the Moon.
  • Determine whether demonstrations of engineering capability at the Moon could have significant feed forward to the Mars scientific exploration program.
  • Determine whether any of the primary scientific exploration goals and objectives for the Moon are linked to the goals and objectives for Mars.

The analysis included both an assessment of the potential ways in which the scientific objectives for the exploration of Mars can be advanced, and their priorities. The full charter of the MMSSG is contained in Appendix I. Several assumptions were made concerning the identification and prioritization of lunar science within the context of the exploration of Mars. We first assumed scientific priorities for the exploration of Mars that are described in the MEPAG Goals document:

Scientific Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities: 2003. Unpublished document (

Lunar science objectives were partially prioritized based on the most recent consensus-based description of lunar-science goals, objectives, and investigations that was developed by the Lunar Exploration Science Working Group (LExSWG). This information is available in the following reports:

  • Planetary Science Strategy for the Moon, Lunar Exploration Science Working Group, July 1992, JSC document JSC-25920, 26 pp.
  • Lunar Surface Exploration Strategy, Lunar Exploration Science Working Group (LExSWG), Final Report, February, 1995, 50 pp.

We also assumed a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission to the Moon in 2008, a robotic landed mission by 2010, and a TBD schedule of robotic lunar missions until a first human return to the lunar surface in 2020. This SSG was asked to focus its effort on martian and lunar surface science, rather than orbital science.

This document is structured to first present an overview of the Moon as a unique vantage point for solar system exploration and general themes for Moon_Mars science linkages. This is followed by an outline of criteria used for prioritization of science investigations. Individual science investigations are explored with regards to linkage between Moon and Mars, relevance to lunar and martian science, and measurements that could be made on the lunar surface. These investigations are then prioritized with regards to their relevance to the exploration of Mars.

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