Status Report

National Environmental Policy Act; Mars Exploration Rovers-2003 Project

By SpaceRef Editor
August 5, 2002
Filed under , ,

[Federal Register: July 24, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 142)]


[Page 48490-48491]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []


[Notice 02-090]

National Environmental Policy Act; Mars Exploration Rover-2003 Project

AGENCY: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft environmental impact statement
(DEIS) for implementation of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER)-2003

SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
(NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Council on
Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural
Provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), and NASA policy and
procedures (14 CFR part 1216, subpart 1216.3), NASA has prepared and
issued a DEIS for the MER-2003 project. The DEIS addresses the
potential environmental impacts associated with continuing the
preparations for and implementing the MER-2003 project. The purpose of
this proposal is to perform exploration of the surface of Mars.
The project is planned to consist of two missions, each involving
identical rover spacecraft. NASA proposes to launch the first mission
from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida, in May or June
2003, on a Delta II 7925, and the second mission from CCAFS in June or
July 2003, on a Delta II 7925 Heavy. Each rover would include two small
radioactive sources for instrument calibration and would use up to
eleven radioisotope heater units (RHU) for thermal control.

DATES: Interested parties are invited to submit comments on
environmental concerns on or before September 9, 2002, or 45 days from
the date of publication in the Federal Register of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s notice of availability of the MER-
2003 project DEIS, whichever is later.

ADDRESSES: Comments submitted via first class, registered, or certified
mail should be addressed to David Lavery, Office of Space Science, Mail
Code SM, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546-0001. Comments
submitted via express mail, a commercial deliverer, or courier service
should be addressed to David Lavery, Office of Space Science, Mail Code
SM, Attn: Receiving & Inspection (Rear of Building), NASA Headquarters,
300 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20024-3210. While hard copy comments
are preferred, comments by electronic mail may be sent to The DEIS may be reviewed at the following

(a) NASA Headquarters, Library, Room 1J20, 300 E Street, SW.,
Washington, DC 20546.

(b) Spaceport U.S.A., Room 2001, John F. Kennedy Space Center, FL
32899. Please call Lisa Fowler at 321-867-2201 so that arrangements can
be made.

(c) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Visitors Lobby, Building 249, 4800
Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109 (818-354-5179).

In addition, the DEIS may be examined at the following NASA
locations by contacting the pertinent Freedom of Information Act

(d) NASA, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035 (650-604-

(e) NASA, Dryden Flight Research Center, P.O. Box 273, Edwards, CA
93523 (661-276-2704).

(f) NASA, Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, 21000 Brookpark
Road, Cleveland, OH 44135 (216-433-2755).

(g) NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt,
MD 20771 (301-286-0730).

(h) NASA, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058 (281-483-8612).

(i) NASA, Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681 (757-864-

(j) NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL 35812 (256-

(k) NASA, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529 (228-688-2164).

Limited hard copies of the DEIS are available, on a first request
basis, by contacting David Lavery at the address or telephone number
indicated herein. The DEIS also is available in Acrobat[reg] format at

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Lavery, 202-358-4800; electronic
mail (

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The MER-2003 project is part of a series of
missions to characterize Mars’ atmosphere, geologic history, climate,
and the relationship to Earth’s climate change process. The two
missions of the MER-2003 project aim to determine what resources Mars
provides for future exploration, and to search for evidence of past and
present life. These two missions would continue the intense study of
local areas of the surface via identical rover spacecraft. The two
rovers would separately explore two different locations on Mars.
Operation of the rovers and their science instruments would also
benefit the planning and design of future missions by demonstrating the
capabilities for long-range travel by mobile science platforms to
validate long-lived, long-distance rover technologies; demonstrate
complex science operations through the simultaneous use of multiple
mobile laboratories; and validate the standards, protocols, and
capabilities of the international Mars communications infrastructure.

The proposed action consists of continuing preparations for and
implementing the MER-2003 project. The first mission (MER-A) would be
launched on a Delta II 7925 from CCAFS in May or June 2003. The second
mission (MER-B) would be launched on a Delta II 7925 Heavy from CCAFS
in June or July 2003. The 2003 launch opportunity represents the best
opportunity for a surface mission to Mars in the next twenty years.
Programmatic issues (e.g., changes in NASA priorities or unforeseen
circumstances) could necessitate modification to the mission objectives
and timing. Such modifications could result in the need to launch one
mission in 2003, and a second mission at a later launch opportunity or
not at all. Accordingly, the only alternative that was evaluated is the
No Action alternative.

For the MER-2003 missions, the potentially affected environment for
normal launches includes the area at and in the vicinity of the launch
site, CCAFS in Florida. The environmental impacts of normal launches of
the two missions for the proposed action would be associated
principally with the exhaust emissions from each of the Delta II launch
vehicles. These effects would include short-term impacts on air quality
within the exhaust cloud and near the launch pads, and the potential
for acidic deposition on the vegetation and surface water bodies at and
near the launch complex, particularly if rain occurs shortly after

A concern associated with launch of the two MER-2003 spacecraft
involves potential launch accidents that could result in the release of
some of the radioactive material on board the rover. Each rover would
employ two instruments which use small quantities of cobalt-57 (that
would not exceed 350 millicuries) and curium-244 (that would not exceed
50 millicuries) as instrument sources. Each rover would have up to
eleven RHUs that use plutonium dioxide to provide heat to the
electronics and batteries on board the rover. The radioisotope
inventory of up to eleven RHUs would total approximately 365 curies of

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in cooperation with NASA, has
performed a risk assessment of potential accidents for the MER-2003
project. This assessment used a methodology refined through
applications to the Galileo, Mars Pathfinder, and Cassini, missions and
incorporates results of safety tests on the RHUs and an evaluation of
the January 17, 1997, Delta II accident at CCAFS. DOE’s risk assessment
for this project indicates that in the event of a launch accident the
expected impacts of released radioactive material at and in the
vicinity of the launch area, and on a global basis, would be small.

Dated: July 18, 2002.

Olga M. Dominguez,
Director, Environmental Management Division.
[FR Doc. 0218734 Filed 7-23-02; 8:45 am]

SpaceRef staff editor.