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Science in Exploration: From the Moon to Mars and Back Home to EarthNASA is embarking on a grand journey of exploration that naturally integrates the past successes of the Apollo missions to the Moon, as well as robotic science missions to Mars, to Planet Earth, and to the broader Universe. The US Vision for Space Exporation (VSE) boldly lays out a plan for human and robotic reconnaissance of the accessible Universe, starting with the surface of the Moon, and later embracing the surface of Mars. Sustained human and robotic access to the Moon and Mars will enable a new era of scientific investigation of our planetary neighbors, tied to driving scientific questions that pertain to the evolution and destiny of our home planet, but which also can be related to the search habitable worlds across the nearby Universe. The Apollo missions provide a vital legacy for what can be learned from the Moon, and NASA is now poised to recapture the lunar frontier starting with the flight of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in late 2008. LRO will provide a new scientific context from which joint human and robotic exploration will ensue, guided by objectives some of which are focused on the grandest scientific challenges imaginable : Where did we come from? Are we alone? and Where are we going? The Moon will serve as an essential stepping stone for sustained human access and exploration of deep space and as a training ground while robotic missions with ever increasing complexity probe the wonders of Mars. As we speak, an armada of spacecraft are actively investigating the red planet both from orbit (NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey Orbiter, plus ESA's Mars Express) and from the surface (NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, and in 2008 NASA's Phoenix polar lander). The dramatically changing views of Mars as a potentially habitable world, with its own flavor of global climate change and unique climate records, provides a new vantage point from which to observe and question the workings of our own planet Earth. By 2010 NASA will have its first mobile analytical laboratory operating on the surface of Mars (Mars Science Laboratory) in search of potentially subtle expressions of past life or at least of life-hospitable environments. Meanwhile back here on Planet Earth, NASA will be continuing to implement an increasingly comprehensive program of robotic missions that address major issues associated with global climate variability, and the "state variables" that affect the quality of human life on our home planet. Ultimately, the fmits of NASA's emergent program of Exploration (VSE) will provide never-beforepossible opportunities for scientific leadership and advancement, culminating in a new state of awareness from which to better plan for the sustainability of life on Earth and for extending Earth life to the Moon and eventually to Mars. As NASA nears its 50th anniversary, the unimaginable and unexpected wealth of strategic knowledge its missions have generated about Earth, the Universe, and our local Solar System boggles the mind and serves as a legacy of knowledge for Educators to inspire future generations.
Document ID
20080045754
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Garvin, James B. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
August 5, 2007
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
STS-118 Pre-Launch Education Conference(Orlando, FL)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.