DPS Meeting, Madison, October 1998
Session 50P. Mercury
Contributed Poster Session, Thursday, October 15, 1998, 5:00-6:30pm, Hall of Ideas

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[50P.10] JANUS, A Proposed Pathfinder Mission to Mercury

S.A. Curtis (NASA/GSFC), P. E. Clark (Catholic University of America), B. Giles (NASA/GSFC), C. Eyerman (Orbital Sciences Corporation), G. Marr (NASA/GSFC), D. Winterhalter (NASA/JPL), Janus Mercury Pathfinder Mission Team

Despite the Mariner 10 flybys and decades of ground-based observations, the planet Mercury remains the most poorly understood inner planet although it could potentially provide essential information on the evolution and origin of the solar system. JANUS, a mission proposed for the NASA Discovery Program, is an extremely fast, low cost, low risk, multiple flyby, four platform pathfinder to Mercury which would provide this essential data and complete the exploration of both hemispheres. JANUS studies Mercury and its environment as a system by simultaneously exploring its interior, surface, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. After a direct transfer orbit from Earth, the first dayside equatorial encounter with Mercury is 115 days post-launch, and includes the release of three Remote Experiment Packages (REPs) targeted for north and south poles and the magnetotail. This encounter provides the fist direct compositional measurements of Mercury and simultaneous multi-point modeling of its magnetic field. Perihelion engine burn following this encounter places the main spacecraft in a 264 day orbit allowing view of alternate sunlit faces of Mercury at each encounter. By the end of the second encounter (one year post-launch), the first photospectral map of the entire planet and a completed set of previously mission compositional constraints for inner solar system, core, and planetary formation is produced. The third encounter, less than two years post-launch, takes the spacecraft over the south pole in search of polar volatiles. JANUS features an experienced, integrated science team and a robust instrumentation package: imaging, X-ray, UV, and neutron spectrometers, energetic particle and electric field detectors, magnetometer, low energy plasma analyzer, and search coil on the main spacecraft, and duplicates of the last three instruments on each REP. JANUS is a true pathfinder, completing the primary exploration of Mercury and forging the path for future GSFC/JPL partnerships.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: YS1pc@lepvax.gsfc.nasa.gov

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