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Missions, Hardware, Software, & Sensors: December 2012


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invites scientists, technologists, and other qualified and interested individuals at U.S. institutions and elsewhere to apply for membership on the Science Definition Team (SDT) for the 2020 Mars science rover mission (hereafter Mars-2020). Mars-2020 is a strategic mission sponsored by NASA's Planetary Science Division, through the Mars Exploration Program, all of which are part of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD).

This mission will advance the scientific priorities detailed in the National Research Council's Planetary Science Decadal Survey, entitled "Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022," (the Decadal Survey is available at http://www.nap.edu ). Mars-2020 rover development and design will be largely based upon the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) architecture that successfully carried the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface on August 6, 2012 (UTC). The 2020 rover is intended to investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars to decipher its geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability and potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geologic materials.

Furthermore, because NASA is embarking on a long-term effort for eventual human exploration of Mars, the mission should provide an opportunity for contributed Human Exploration Mission Directorate (HEOMD) or Space Technology Program (STP) participation via payload elements aligned with their priorities and compatible with SMD priorities for Mars-2020 (e.g., MEPAG P-SAG report, posted June 2012 to MEPAG website: http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov ).

The members of the Mars-2020 SDT will provide NASA with scientific assistance and direction during preliminary concept definition (Pre-Phase A) activities. Near-term activities of the SDT will include the establishment of baseline mission science objectives and a realistic scientific concept of surface operations; development of a strawman payload/instrument suite as proof of concept; and suggestions for threshold science objectives/measurements for a preferred mission viable within resource constraints provided by NASA Headquarters. The products developed by the SDT will be used to develop the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Announcement of Opportunity (AO) that will outline the primary science objectives of the baseline mission and the character of the payload-based investigations solicited under open competition via the AO. The SDT will be formed in January 2013, and disbanded after the work is complete approximately four months later.