Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NRC Planetary Decadal Survey

I thought Steve Squyres did an amazing job presenting the National Research Council Planetary Decadal Survey at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

The people of the Mars Program have really shown that they have been working hard to keep the program alive for the coming years. (A personal shout out to Phil Christensen of Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Tiger Team III (RAWRRR!!!) for all the hard work he has done!)

*Check out the Top Ten Discoveries of the Mars Exploration Program! http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/science/index.html

It is a clever thought that the cache produced by the rover MAX-C could sit on the surface of Mars for a period of time while other missions take place. I have lived in the UK for six months now and know that the engineers and scientists really want and have been waiting for a long time to have a robot of their own land on Mars and do science (my visits to the Mullard Space Science Laboratory and Astrium are my biggest data points). The idea is to have NASA's MAX-C rover sit next to ESA's EXOMARS rover during the journey to Mars. Sky Crane would then lower both rovers at the same time to the surface. So lets hope that we can get those cost projections down.

The Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM - they're still trying to think of a better name) is an awesome flagship mission that I continue to look forward to. This is another instance where NASA and ESA would be working together to do exciting science. Squyres mostly talks about the NASA-led Jupiter Europa Obiter. The other partner in this choreographed exploration is the ESA-led Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter. Looking forward to the exploration of Europa a moon with a geologically young surface and a icy brine/ocean subsurface and Ganymede, the largest moon in our solar system (that's right even our own large moon) with its whispy terrain and magnetosphere producing geo-dynamo.

Learn more about this Outer Planet Flagship Mission

The mentioned Uranus orbiter mission would be interesting to see if we decided to go there when both hemispheres are receiving the sun light. This is when there is more atmospheric activity (i. e. white ammonia/methane clouds and dark spots). Uranus does also have its interesting moons: Miranda (chevron features), Ariel, Umbriel (dark surface - carbonaceous material), Titania, and Oberon. I am however extremely interested in Neptune's Triton. Triton is geologically (cryovolcanism) active with its geysers producing a tenuous atmosphere. It has young and interesting cantaloupe terrain. It is also thought to be a captured Kuiper Belt Object and its retrograde orbit supports this idea.

Much more information and exciting times to come can be gathered by watching the presentation.

Watch live streaming video from 2011lpsc at livestream.com

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