This assessment by the ad hoc Mars Architecture Assessment Committee (the members of the committee are listed in Appendix 1) was carried out at a meeting held at the National Academies' Keck Center in Washington, D.C., on March 29-31, 2006. The assessment was conducted at the specific written request of Dr. Mary Cleave, NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, who asked the National Research Council (NRC) to address the following three questions:
1. Is the Mars architecture reflective of the strategies, priorities, and guidelines put forward by the National Research Council's (NRC's) solar system exploration decadal survey and related science strategies and NASA plans?
2. Does the revised Mars architecture address the goals of NASA's Mars Exploration Program and optimize the science return, given the current fiscal posture of the program?
3. Does the Mars architecture represent a reasonably balanced mission portfolio?
It is important to note that the original order of the questions posed by Dr. Cleave was 2, 3, and 1. That is, the one that now appears first was originally listed as last. The committee has taken the liberty of reordering the questions because it is strongly of the opinion that logic dictates that it start its assessment of the Mars architecture by first addressing the architecture's scientific foundations.