New NASA Guidance Document Revises Agency’s Exploration Objectives
NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy discussed during the International Astronautical Congress held in Paris on Sept. 20 the release of a document outlining her agency’s objectives in terms of space exploration. The updated document reflects the input collected from the public and industry during a commenting period and two subsequent workshops for further discussion.
The document, which has been endorsed by the American Astronautical Society, is part of a broader NASA effort to develop an architecture that would guide its exploration programs. The agency intends to hold regular workshops to review and refine the envisioned architecture annually, SpaceNews reported.
The changes to the document include an expansion of the original 50 objectives to 63 and what Melroy described as a complete restructuring of the science objectives, which had originally focused on lunar science and lacked goals concerning Martian exploration apart from the Mars Sample Return program, which itself has undergone some changes.
The Mars Sample Return program previously involved sending two vehicles to the Martian surface: a rover that would pick up the samples currently being collected by Perseverance and a launch vehicle called the Mars Ascent Vehicle, which would lift the rover up from the surface and bring it to an orbiting spacecraft that would receive the samples and transport them to Earth. The revised plan removes the need for a rover, placing the burden of bringing the samples to the MAV on Perseverance itself.
As a backup, accompanying the MAV would be a pair of Martian helicopters designed after Ingenuity, which performed its first flight in the Martian atmosphere soon after arriving with Perseverance in 2021.
Tags: American Astronautical Society International Astronautical Congress lunar exploration Mars exploration NASA objectives Pam Melroy space SpaceNews