Completing the Mars Sample Return campaign, a joint initiative between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to bring back samples from Mars, should be the top priority of the US space agency’s robotic exploration efforts over the next decade. Describes the Origins, worlds and life, a ten-year strategy for planetary science and astrobiology 2023 – 2032a report that identifies the most important questions of planetary science and the missions needed to answer them.
Produced by the National Academy of Sciences, the report is a 780-page document covering topics ranging from new missions to Mars and manned missions to the Moon, to improvements in workforce diversity and the inclusion of the necessary infrastructure, to support the exploration and scientific discovery. In addition to highlighting the campaign to bring Mars samples back to Earth, the report recommends launching an orbiter and probe mission to Uranus.
If there are sufficient financial resources for this, the mission to Uranus would be followed by another, which would bring an orbiter and a lander (landing module) to Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The report also stresses the importance of NASA maintaining a steady pace of small and medium-sized spacecraft, launched to different destinations in the Solar System, and stresses the importance of completing the NEO Surveyor Space Telescope.
Overall, the recommendations highlighted in the report address high-priority scientific topics in three main areas. One is the formation of our solar system, and specifically the Earth, while the other explores the evolution of planetary bodies for the different objects observed today. Finally, the last theme is related to life, addressing issues related to the conditions that led to habitable environments and the emergence of life in our world.
The report describes a higher-cost “recommended” program and a “base” program that considers an annual growth rate of 2% over NASA’s current budget. Despite being made up of recommendations only, the report is a document that carries significant weight to the United States Congress, the White House and NASA itself, and the larger recommendations from previous editions have helped give rise to major missions, such as the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers. .
This new version is quite consistent with the survey of the last decade of planetary sciences, which covered the years from 2013 to 2022. On the other hand, there is a big difference from the other document: the new report focuses more on planetary defense, the role of human exploration with the Artemis program and a greater emphasis on astrobiology, as well as the search for life.
Source: Planetary Society