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Mars Scout Program Cancelled?
Drkskywxlt
post Jul 29 2010, 02:59 PM
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http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1007/29scout/

I hadn't heard this elsewhere and a quick google of "mars scout cancellation" pulled up nothing about this. The article quotes an interview with Doug McCuiston, so it sounds legit. Apparently, since Mars is now included in Discovery proposals, they feel that covers the low-priced Mars missions adequately. They also feel that no high-quality science can be garnered from such small missions going forward. As a Mars atmosphere guy, I beg to differ on that...

I doubt Mars missions are going to fare well in Discovery proposal reviews since Mars gets it's own budget and areas like small body, inner solar system, and perhaps even the outer solar system get such infrequent missions by comparison.
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djellison
post Jul 29 2010, 04:20 PM
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QUOTE (Drkskywxlt @ Jul 29 2010, 06:59 AM) *
I doubt Mars missions are going to fare well in Discovery proposal reviews ..


From the very article you cite...

QUOTE
"Phil Christensen, an Arizona State University scientist, said he is involved in several Mars proposals for the next Discovery mission.

"I really don't know how Mars will fare in the Discovery program, but there certainly are a lot of non-Mars concepts," Christensen told Spaceflight Now. "I think if the Mars concepts have the highest science value then they will be very seriously considered, especially since there is currently no other way to get small mission concepts flown to Mars.""
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Drkskywxlt
post Jul 29 2010, 04:25 PM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Jul 29 2010, 11:20 AM) *
From the very article you cite...

Says someone who is proposing a Mars Discovery mission, not someone who is going to be reviewing them. Slight bias there, don't you think?
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ugordan
post Jul 29 2010, 04:27 PM
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He's suggesting the missions will be chosen based on scientific return (which they should be, IMHO) so I don't quite see the bias you speak of. Is it your own opinion that Mars missions can't stand on their own on those merits so shouldn't really have to compete with everyone else?


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Drkskywxlt
post Jul 29 2010, 04:36 PM
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I'm a Mars researcher, of course I believe the science is worthy and competes very well with anything else that can be proposed. But the folks at NASA HQ that make these decisions also include non-scientific factors in their decision making process. The fact that the Mars program already gets billions of dollars per year and has a steady stream of missions is going to make it REALLY hard, IMO, for NASA to send a Discovery mission to Mars. We'll see what the Decadal Survey results are, but folks studying small bodies, the inner solar system, and the outer solar system (besides JEO targets) are relying on Discovery and NF for missions. There's not going to be a small bodies or inner solar system flagship mission (or steady program of smaller missions) in the next 10 years and probably beyond.
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djellison
post Jul 29 2010, 09:14 PM
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"The fact that the Mars program already gets billions of dollars per year" you say.

As a Mars researcher, you should know that to be entirely false. It's between $500 and 600M per year. A factor of at least 4 less than 'billions'.

The fact is this - the budget can't afford the scout program any more. If there's some exceptional science to be done within that budget, it can fight with other missions. If it can't beat those missions to the cash, then so be it.
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Drkskywxlt
post Jul 29 2010, 11:04 PM
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I misspoke. I was thinking about MSL when I posted that, with a total cost in the billions. Besides MAVEN, it's looking like all of the future US-led missions are going to have costs in the billions. You can't fly too many missions when you're total costs are in that range.

I'll be interested to see what the Decadal's recommendations for Mars are outside of MSR. If JEO gets prioritized over MSR, I would think there'd still be plenty of room for a number of smaller missions, Scout or otherwise. If JEO flys in 2020, and MAX-C still goes in 2018, that would leave 1-3 launch opportunities to Mars before MSR would resume, perhaps after 2022? Any missions that fly during that time are apt to be smaller/focused.
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vjkane
post Jul 30 2010, 06:36 AM
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I believe that budgets did in the Scout program. It was initiated when projected budgets for the Mars program were substantially larger than turned out to be the case. The cost overruns for the Mars Science Laboratory also squeezed funding for Mars programs.

Mars missions may fair well in the Discovery program. Many ideas I've seen seem compelling and Mars oribters are probably low risk. Remember that despite many lunar missions, the last Discovery selection went to a pair of lunar orbiters (GRAIL).


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