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J. Romstedt (ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands), M. A. Barucci (DESPA, Obs. de Paris, Meudon, FR), A. Balogh, C. Carr (Imperial Coll., London, UK), A. Coradini, M. C. De Sanctis (Ist. di Astrofisica Spaziale, CNR, Roma, IT), F. Ferri (ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands), M. Grande (Rutherford Appleton Lab., Oxfordshire, UK), C. Lagerkvist (Uppsala Astronomical Obs., Uppsala, Sweden), M. Pätzold (Universität zu Köln, Köln, Germany), E. Perozzi (Telespazio, Roma, Italy / DESPA, Obs. de Paris, Meudon, France), N. Thomas (Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie, Germany), M. Novara (ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands)
The MASTER (Mars + ASTERoid) mission is one of the flexible mission proposals received by ESA which was selected for a full assessment study. The proposed strategy for this mission is to perform a Mars flyby at a relative velocity compatible with the delivery of landers and to perform flybys of large asteroids in the main belt. Vesta, the third largest asteroid, is by far the most appealing among the inner main belt objects. Spectroscopic observations show mineralogical diverse units on its surface, indicating a magmatic differentiation, and thus bearing a strong resemblance to a miniaturized planet. Spectral similarities suggest that Vesta may be the parent body of the HED achondrite meteorites. Vesta is a small planetary world frozen in time at a unique and unexplored epoch of the early Solar System formation and evolution. The relatively low flyby velocity of MASTER at Vesta, less than 4 km/s, will enable us to achieve numerous scientific goals. A medium angle camera, a flux gate magnetometer, a plasma package and radio science will address the physical properties of Vesta, in order to determine its size, shape, mass, density, rotation speed, pole orientation and magnetic environment. The surface will be studied morphologically with a resolution of <50m/pixel as well as mineralogically and chemically using a Visible/IR imaging and a X-ray spectrometer. The internal structure of the asteroid will be investigated with radio science techniques with the aim to establish the presence and size of a core. The Mars flybys offer the opportunity for remote sensing observations and to deploy the four NetLander probes on the martian surface. The MASTER baseline scenario foresees the launch in September 2007 by Soyuz/Fregat, two flybys of Mars in 2008/9 and the arrival at Vesta in 2011 with a possible mission extension to 156/Xanthippe.