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Odyssey and the 2014 Senior Panel Review
Doug M.
post Sep 13 2014, 10:59 PM
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So here are the NASA Planetary Senior Panel Review's findings on Odyssey (.pdf here: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/pss/sep2014/Senior...14-Report.pdf):

Mars Odyssey (ODY)

The sixth extended mission (EM6) of ODY will move the spacecraft into a new orbit so the instruments can view the terminator. This will allow EM6 to achieve four scientific objectives: 1) Provide an understanding of the distribution of water, carbon dioxide and dust in the atmosphere and how they interact with the surface; 2) Generate a global picture of the Martian surface mineralogy, geomorphology, and thermophysical properties; 3) Provide an understanding of the Martian radiation environment and its variability as a function of time; and 4) Serve as an observatory for monitoring cosmic gamma ray bursts.

Neither the proposal nor the presentation made convincing arguments as to how substantial new science that directly relates to Planetary Science Division objectives as outlined in the Decadal Survey would be possible from all instruments during EM6. Specifically, the remaining instruments in the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS) suite (the
Neutron Spectrometer (NS) and the High-Energy Neutron Detector (HEND) primarily address Heliophysics and Astrophysics objectives. During the presentation, it also became evident that certain aspects of EM6 would actually be data analysis tasks rather than new observations resulting in new science discoveries.

The panel did note that JMARS is a valuable tool for the Martian planetary community, as well as the general public: it is sufficiently user-friendly that educators at all levels use it around the country. It would be detrimental to science productivity if the community were to lose this resource due to a lack of funding because JMARS supports multiple data sets.

The panel re-voted the ODY EM6 proposal on the basis of descoping the total GRS suite, as it is conducting science observations to address objectives peripheral to planetary science. The adjectival grade improved to Very Good (Table 1), but ODY may be coming to the end of its life as a productive science mission, as highlighted by
the declining rate of publications using ODY data over the last three years.

So, some obvious questions.

1) How much weight is given to the Panel's recommendations? Is it really likely that NASA might follow their advice and descope Odyssey's GRS instruments?

2) Do I understand correctly that Odyssey is being dinged for doing heliophysics and astrophysics instead of planetary science? Okay, it's a Planetary review board. But does that mean they'd completely discount astrophysics being done by a planetary mission, even if it was otherwise good science?

3) This is the first time I've seen the metric of "publications citing this mission" used in a NASA document as a metric for mission success. Is this common?

Doug M.

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