MEPAG meeting in Crystal City - Live Blog - Day Two

Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group Meeting

The meeting will get underway at 8:00 am EST. Ongoing live commentary will be posted below.

MEPAG meeting in Crystal City - Live Blog - Day One

Nadine Barlow: Surface Ages and Histories; Issues in Planetary Chronology

In order to understand planetary surface history, a synergy of crater counts radiometric dating, and dynamics is required. Establishing a chronology is a NASA priority.

Steve Clifford: Fourth International Conference on Mars Polar Science and Exploration (Workshop/Meeting Report)

First meeting in 1998. Second in 2000, third in 2003. Last meeting held in October 2006. Meeting brings together terrestrial and planetary scientists interested in polar research. In the past, key questions developed as a result of presentations and discussions. This time we started with a clean slate but ended up with suggestions similar to what we came up with in the past.

Meeting focus on Mars polar and climate research, planetary analogs for Mars. Outcome published in Icarus special issue.

MARSIS and SHARAD data from Mars' poles from Mars Express eagerly awaited. Radar stratigraphy shows internal structure of polar cap deposits.

First meeting sought to determine if there was an interpretable record of climatic and geologic history preserved in Mars polar deposits.

Polar deposits are complex. Complex changes occur. Strong interest in the thermal physical properties and composition of the cap.

Age of deposits and glacial history - how much flow has occurred - effects of dust contamination, melting at surface of deposits, effects of volcanoes.

How do layers form - effect of obliquity and seasonal changes. What kind of temperature extremes have occurred over time? Antarctic deposition shown to track with global climate, does this happen on Mars too?

How are volatiles exchanged between polar and non-polar reservoirs? How does this affect surface and subsurface ice deposits?

Looking forward to Phoenix mission - first in situ examination of polar environment. Allows ground truth to be gained and compared with data collected from orbit.

Great advantage to making measurements on the surface.

Allan Trieman - Martian Sulfates as Recorder of Atmospheric-Fluid-Rock Interactions (Workshop/Meeting Report)

Sulfates arise not only from volcanism but also from a variety of interactions. Sulfates can also form from biotic influences.

Sulfates are abundant on the surface of Mars. CRISM shows sulfates in a geologic context - at crest of dunes. Other spacecraft have observed them as well.

Sulfates associated with life in extreme conditions in terrestrial environments such as caves, fumaroles, mine drainage sites.

Terrestrial sulfates (jarosites) are used as environmental probes on Earth.

Chip Shearer - Early Planetary Differentiation (Workshop/Meeting Report)

Themes: early differentiation; accretion and initial conditions of the terrestrial planets; timescales of early planetary differentiation; mechanisms of silicate differentiation; and dynamic, isotopic, and experimental constraints for core formation.

Planetary differentiation is a very early process and a very rapid process. Both Moon, Mars experienced differentiation through rapid crystallization of a magma ocean (took 10 - 50 million years to occur).

Secondary crustal formation (granites) and stability of water on Earth's surface occurred early (4.4 billion years ago). Is this sort of activity on Earth relevant to Mars?

Different styles of accretion (i.e. Moon Vs. Mars) will influence the extent of melting and number of magma oceans.

Considerable differences in W and Sm isotopic systematics between Mars and Moon.

Nature of primary crusts - post-magma ocean additions to the mantle via late stage accretion and atmospheric evolution.

Need to develop further linkages between observations and models - magma ocean crystallization, giant impact models, and multiple magma oceans

Need a better understanding of planetary interiors. Establishing a geophysical network on Mars will be helpful in this regard.

Exploration of preserved primary planetary crusts is also important.

After the break:

Mars-Moon Linkages

  • ESMD Needs and Understanding of Mars-Moon Linkages
  • Science Linkages
  • NRC Interim Report
  • MEPAG MFLO-SAG: General Linkages and Priorities
  • NAC Workshop on Science Associated with Lunar Exploration
  • Architecture

Mark Lee - ESMD Needs and Understanding of Mars-Moon Linkages

ISS will be available until 2015 or 2016.

Why are we going back to the Moon? Spent a year trying to figure this out. Came up with 6 themes (see this page)

2007 is the "Year of Mars".

181 Lunar objectives developed. This forms a blueprint that will be the starting point for coordination. Taken from a larger spreadsheet thousands of pages long - called "The Spreadsheet of Death"

Lee's presentation was rather scattered - and a little hard to follow - but he more or less spoke from these charts

ESMD request of MEPAG: help with merging of objectives and their phrasing and phasing and prioritize the lunar objectives from the perspective of preparing for Mars (this needs to be done for Mars since original work done from the perspective of lunar exploration only)

Status: MEPAG's early input (July 2006) to phrasing/phasing of objectives merged with other inputs to create the current list. MEPAG has proposed draft Mars-related priorities (to be discussed at this meeting) See Findings of the Mars Forward Lunar Objectives Science Analysis Group

Question raised about ITAR constraints from audience. Lee suggested that bilateral agreements might solve this.

When asked if 181 objectives will be reduced to a more manageable number, Lee said "NASA does not own all of the objectives. NASA will take some and other nations will take others." He said that any such reduction would happen in "Phase II" but did not explain what Phase II would be.

A member of the committee stood up and said that science priorities were not categorized - that is the job of the community. But there are a "top 25". The report is in draft form but no one knows when it will be released.

Chip Shearer - Science Linkages

Summary of Science Findings

1. Primary scientific linkages between Mars and Moon were recently evaluated by MEPAG and those linkages are still valid

2. Lunar planetary science investigations are not required to prepare for humans explorers at Mars

3. There are primary science linkages

Draft of science themes and objectives for lunar program prepared by NASA Synthesis Team

See Findings of the Mars Forward Lunar Objectives Science Analysis Group "The Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) has completed a preliminary analysis of the June, 2006 draft list of possible lunar objectives from the perspective of its relevance to preparation for human missions to Mars. MEPAG has reached eight preliminary findings."

An example of something that might be done on the Moon is the establishment of a Moon-wide geophysical network. Apollo's network only covered a small region. This would allow a better understanding of the Moon's interior. There are obvious applications to gaining a similar understanding of the interior of Mars.

Characterizing lunar surface morphology and impact history would also have clear applicability to Mars.

Lunar science investigations are not required for humans on Mars - However NASA's goal is to find "maximum possible utility for later missions to Mars" and we interpret this as including usefulness to our scientific understanding of Mars as a planet.

Jennifer Heldman - MEPAG MFLO-SAG: General Linkages and Priorities

Fast-paced presentation. Lots of charts - flashed really fast. Handing out copies would have helped people digest what was being said. However, a 4-page handout of specific lunar objectives with relevance to preparation for human Mars exploration was provided - somewhat of an eye chart. Refer to this document: Findings of the Mars Forward Lunar Objectives Science Analysis Group

Study is a straw man analysis. Analysis of primary ways in which human missions to Moon/Mars are similar and different.

Uncertain but possibly important relationship between lunar and Martian ISRU. Preparation for Mars is a compelling theme. More autonomy needed for Mars systems.

There is relevance between Moon/Mars objectives - this relevance could be enhanced by rephrasing Moon objectives.

Audience comment: use Moon to demonstrate deep access to surface. Use the surface of the Moon as a testbed for doing investigations without contamination lunar surface as training for how to avoid cross contamination on Mars.

Laurie Leshan noted that "all geology priorities are listed as high - does that mean that any geology that we do on the Moon advances Mars?" Answer: yes.

Bradley Joliff - NAC Workshop on Science Associated with Lunar Exploration

Workshop coming up 27 Feb - 2 March in Tempe, Arizona. Sponsored by NASA Advisory Council - co-sponsored by SOMD and ESMD. See this link for information. Capacity is currently 250 attendees.

This is an open event - but it is not a conference - rather it is a "roll up your sleeves" workshop. This is not a one time activity - will probably be revisiting on a 2 year cycle.

The intent of this event is to generate information so as to allow NAC to make recommendations.


If you are concerned about exploration gobbling up science money, exploration science programs will still be subject to peer review - as are other programs at NASA.

Role of international partners, commercial partners will be considered.

Output: Set of white papers will be generated, matrix of themes and objectives - with prioritization and themes, and a summary/synthesis of the workshop and reccommendations.


Audience comment: There was a mini-revolt of the NAC science subcommittees about science - especially given that the VSE is "not science-driven". We need to be certain that the science we do is good.

Joliff (representing the NAC) really had no answer other than to be certain that the science is good.

Audience comment: various efforts seem to be scattered and uncoordinated.

Joliff: "A lot of the activities will feed through the NAC activity that will lead to specific recommendations. Also, there is an important study being done by the NRC. That report will be viewed in a different way in terms of science management at NASA. That study was initiated at the request of the NAC. The NAC is trying to filter a lot of information and will make recommendations. But in the end, NASA is gong to make its own decisions and that will be the way it is."

Audience comment: NRC issued interim report on science on the Moon. Where does this workshop fit in? Is this where we tell the NAC what the objectives will be? How will NAC reconcile this with the NRC report?

Joliff: This will be an independent effort. We are taking all of the inputs and are looking at implementation. We're trying to take in other concerns (previously mentioned) that are not directly science. Our perspective is one of implementation. The NRC is not constrained by architecture - they are concerned with "what is the important science?"

The short afternoon session where future meetings - and a meeting wrap up - were to be discussed was appended to the morning session - and the meeting will end early - at noon.

2013 Mars Science Orbiter (MSO) - will be a communications orbiter for whatever assets need this capability at Mars. It will also do significant science as well.

Next few months should include looking at 2011 Scout selection and MSO science/hardware as well.

Audience question: there is a concern with comments that MSO is a "a telecommunications satellite that will have significant science" when it should be stated that MSO is "a science orbiter that will have telecommunications capability".

There was also a question as to whether Mars Scout missions could fill some of the telecommunications functionality. Mike Meyer from NASA HQ said that the Scout missions would not have a long enough lifetime. An audience member suggested that this role for Scout missions not be ruled out since "Mars orbiters seem to last forever".

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 10, 2007 12:23 PM.

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