AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 11 Instrumentation, Space Missions
Poster, Monday, May 31, 2004, 9:20am-6:30pm, Ballroom

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[11.01] The Science Goals of NASA’s Exploration Initiative

J. P. Gardner, J. M. Grunsfeld (NASA HQ)

The recently released policy directive, "A Renewed Spirit of Discovery: The President’s Vision for U. S. Space Exploration," seeks to advance the U. S. scientific, security and economic interest through a program of space exploration which will robotically explore the solar system and extend human presence to the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA’s implementation of this vision will be guided by compelling questions of scientific and societal importance, including the origin of our Solar System and the search for life beyond Earth. The Exploration Roadmap identifies four key targets: the Moon, Mars, the outer Solar System, and extra-solar planets. First, a lunar investigation will set up exploration test beds, search for resources, and study the geological record of the early Solar System. Human missions to the Moon will serve as precursors for human missions to Mars and other destinations, but will also be driven by their support for furthering science. The second key target is the search for past and present water and life on Mars. Following on from discoveries by Spirit and Opportunity, by the end of the decade there will have been an additional rover, lander and orbiter studying Mars. These will set the stage for a sample return mission and increasingly complex robotic investigations in the next decade, and an eventual human landing. The third key target is the study of underground oceans, biological chemistry, and their potential for life in the outer Solar System. Beginning with the arrival of Cassini at Saturn in July 2004 and a landing on Titan in 2005, the next decade will see an extended investigation of the Jupiter icy moons by a mission making use of Project Prometheus, a program to develop space nuclear power and nuclear-electric propulsion. Finally, the search for Earth-like planets and life includes a series of telescopic missions designed to find and characterize extra-solar planets and search them for evidence of life. These missions include HST and Spitzer, operating now; Kepler, SIM, JWST, and TPF, currently under development; and the vision missions, Life Finder and Planet Imager, which will possibly be constructed in space by astronauts.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: jonathan.p.gardner@nasa.gov

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