From the "JPL Universe"

JPL Press Release, 13 January 1995

"Mars program to oversee 10 years of missions"

Request for proposals out to industry for design of 1998 mission to red planet

      NASA embarked on a decade-long program of Mars exploration in 
   1994, establishing at JPL a program office that will oversee all 
   Mars missions planned for the next 10 years.

      The JPL Mars Exploration Office, established in July 1994, was 
   put in place in response to NASA's initiative to scale back the 
   cost and development time of spaceflight missions and to begin a 
   sustained program of Mars exploration. Donna Shirley, manager of 
   the Mars Pathfinder rover project, was named in August 1994 to 
   manage the newly formed office.

      The first two missions of the Mars Exploration Program got 
   under way last year and will continue to play prominent roles for 
   about 350 project personnel until they are launched in November 

      The missions are the Mars Global Surveyor, an orbiter that will 
   arrive at Mars in September 1997, and the Mars Pathfinder lander 
   and rover, which will land on the planet and place the first 
   robotic rover on the surface in July of the same year.  

      Mars Global Surveyor got off to a running start in July 1994, 
   with the selection of Martin Marietta Technologies Inc. of Denver, 
   Colo., to build the spacecraft. 

      Development of the spacecraft is on a fast track schedule, with 
   built-in performance measurement to assure on-time readiness for 
   launch in just 28 months from the time the contractor was named 
   last year.  

      On average, the development of planetary spacecraft in the past 
   has been about 66 months. The project has been capped at $100 
   million per year. 

      The Surveyor will be a polar-orbiting spacecraft designed to 
   provide global maps of surface topography, distribution of 
   minerals and monitoring of global weather.  The spacecraft, which 
   will be launched from a Delta II launch vehicle, will carry six of 
   the eight scientific instruments carried aboard the Mars Observer 

      The mission will rely on an aerobraking technique--developed 
   during the final days of the Magellan mission--that will provide a 
   means of minimizing the amount of fuel necessary to lower it into 
   a low-altitude mapping orbit over Mars.

      Mars Pathfinder received a fiscal year 1994 start by NASA's 
   Office of Space Science, with a cost cap of $150 million in fiscal 
   year 1992 dollars. The project reported excellent progress in all 
   aspects of development during 1994.  

      Integration of prototype models of the rover, imager, flight 
   system and ground-data system was accomplished. Conceptual testing 
   of components of the innovative entry, descent and landing 
   subsystems was also finished, including testing of air bag 
   inflation and retraction mechanisms, testing of the heat shield 
   material and testing of the rocket-assisted deceleration 
   mechanism. Flight hardware and software will be completed this 
   year and delivered to start the assembly and testing of the flight 
   system in June.

      In the meantime, a request for proposals has been issued to 
   industry for design of the 1998 mission to Mars. Industry 
   responses were expected to be returned by April 1. 

      International participation, collaboration and coordination 
   will be a cornerstone of all new missions to Mars, and each pair 
   of spacecraft launched during the next decade will build on the 
   experience of its predecessors. 

      For instance, landers in future years--1998, 2001, 2003 and 
   2005--will capitalize on the experience of the Mars Pathfinder 
   lander mission. By the same token, progressively smaller, 
   streamlined orbiters will allow smaller and less expensive launch 
   vehicles to be used as NASA's armada of spacecraft is readied to 
   explore and act as data relay stations for international missions 
   of the future.