From: NASA Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG)
Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2008
Report of the iMARS (International Mars Architecture for the Return of Samples) Working Group
The international Mars Architecture for the Return of Samples (iMARS) Working Group was chartered by the International Mars Exploration Working Group (IMEWG) in mid-2006 to develop a potential plan for an internationally sponsored and executed Mars sample return (MSR) mission. Its purpose is to outline the scientific and engineering requirements of such an international mission in the 2018-2023 time frame. The Terms of Reference of iMARS are given in Appendix I.
This report is a summary of Phase I of iMARS' efforts, which were carried out between September 2007, and May 2008. Over this period, the iMARS team developed: scientific objectives; an understanding of the kinds, quantities, and conditions of samples needed to achieve those objectives; draft requirements associated with the objectives; analyses of flight and ground system implementation options and priorities to meet the requirements; a preliminary timeline for MSR for planning long-lead elements and approximate budget phasing; and an analysis of some identified management issues. The result of this effort was consensus on a potential architecture for an international MSR mission, as well as several conclusions regarding MSR and the next steps to achieving it.
The team worked with and was represented on a Next-Decade Science Assessment Group (ND-SAG), which developed guidance regarding the merits of different sample types to achieve high-priority Mars science goals. Engineering analysis included studies of launch opportunities and mission design, along with assessments of the requirements for mobility and time on the surface necessitated by the goal to collect diverse samples from scientifi cally important sites. The iMARS team also considered the requirements and options associated with planetary protection implementation, which will be more signifi cant for this mission than for any other ever flown. The primary conclusions of the iMARS analysis include:
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