Status Report

Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Steering Group reports June 30-July 2, 2004

By SpaceRef Editor
January 19, 2005
Filed under , ,
Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Steering Group reports June 30-July 2, 2004

University of Colorado at Boulder Science Steering Group reports

At the meeting on June 30-July 2, 2004, MEPAG heard reports on three SSGs, two of which
have completed and submitted their reports and one of which is in process. MEPAG was
singularly impressed with the quality and depth of the analysis carried out by each of the SSGs,
the more so in that many of the questions addressed by them were originally ill-posed or illdefined.
One important conclusion that we would like to highlight is that these SSGs are an
outstanding way to involve the science community in providing scientific input that feeds into
the programmatic decisions that are to be made; there is no effective substitute or alternative.

– Organic Contaminants SSG. This is an important report, because it represents some first
steps by MEPAG to specify how the science community would like to see contamination
requirements framed, as well as initial findings regarding quantitative limits on different
classes of contaminants. In addition, this report contains an important discussion of the
protocols necessary to distinguish contaminants from natural signal in life-related
experiments—having effective strategies in this area will be important in designing both
in situ and sample return missions in the future.

– Astrobiological Field Laboratory SSG. MEPAG’s 2002 Pathways SSG recommended
that a major in-situ astrobiology mission, which was given the tentative name AFL, be
considered for the next decade. The AFL SSG was asked to follow this up by analyzing
what AFL could be. The study began with a valuable program-level analysis of the
strategic planning issues associated with achieving MEPAG Goal I (life detection), and
with an analysis of the projected state of the astrobiological exploration of Mars 10 years
from now. This analysis will set the context for all Mars missions of the next 10-20
years. From there, the AFL SSG presented an analysis of some possible in situ missions
that could make a meaningful contribution to this overall exploration theme. Those
descriptions elicited substantial discussion by the MEPAG audience, and further
discussion in the future is anticipated. Finally, because there has been much recent
confusion over terminology, the Mars Program has requested that the AFL SSG
recommend to MEPAG a set of definitions related to Goal I. Definitions of
“habitability”, “habitat”, “biosignature”, and “life detection” were prepared, and have
been accepted by MEPAG.

– Moon-Mars SSG. The objective of this SSG was to define the scientific linkages
between the Moon and Mars, and in particular, the activities that could be carried out at
the Moon that would be of benefit to MEPAG’s martian scientific objectives. The SSG
has defined 20 primary linkages, which are organized into three categories: Scientific
investigations, Resource-related issues, and Capability demonstrations. These linkages
have been prioritized in a relative sense, and those priorities stirred up considerable
discussion by the MEPAG audience. The SSG plans to take the feedback from those
discussions, and to incorporate in a revised report.

SpaceRef staff editor.