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Robotic Mars Sample Return: Risk Assessment and Analysis ReportA comparison of the risk associated with two alternative scenarios for a robotic Mars sample return mission was conducted. Two alternative mission scenarios were identified, the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) reference Mission and a mission proposed by Johnson Space Center (JSC). The JPL mission was characterized by two landers and an orbiter, and a Mars orbit rendezvous to retrieve the samples. The JSC mission (Direct/SEP) involves a solar electric propulsion (SEP) return to earth followed by a rendezvous with the space shuttle in earth orbit. A qualitative risk assessment to identify and characterize the risks, and a risk analysis to quantify the risks were conducted on these missions. Technical descriptions of the competing scenarios were developed in conjunction with NASA engineers and the sequence of events for each candidate mission was developed. Risk distributions associated with individual and combinations of events were consolidated using event tree analysis in conjunction with Monte Carlo techniques to develop probabilities of mission success for each of the various alternatives. The results were the probability of success of various end states for each candidate scenario. These end states ranged from complete success through various levels of partial success to complete failure. Overall probability of success for the Direct/SEP mission was determined to be 66% for the return of at least one sample and 58% for the JPL mission for the return of at least one sample cache. Values were also determined for intermediate events and end states as well as for the probability of violation of planetary protection. Overall mission planetary protection event probabilities of occurrence were determined to be 0.002% and 1.3% for the Direct/SEP and JPL Reference missions respectively.
Document ID
Document Type
Lalk, Thomas R.
(Texas A&M Univ. College Station, TX, United States)
Spence, Cliff A.
(Texas A&M Univ. College Station, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
March 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Summer Faculty Fellowship Program - 2000
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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