The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is larger, more massive, and substantially more powerful than the MER robots presently at work on Mars. MSL launched successfully on Saturday November 26, 2011. The anticipated mobility range of MSL is approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) and the mission is expected to last at least two Earth years, equivalent to one Mars year.
The Planetary Environments Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) will contribute a set of key science measurements to the Mars Science Laboratory rover mission with the development, integration, calibration, and test of a suite of instruments; a mass spectrometer; a gas chromatograph, and a tunable laser spectrometer. This suite of instruments is called SAM (for Sample Analysis at Mars). The gas chromatograph mass spectrometer greatly extends the breadth of measurements that were implemented on the Viking landers in 1977 and the tunable laser spectrometer precisely measures trace species such as methane. The combined set of composition and isotope measurements will help us answer the questions of the present or past ability of Mars to support life. SAM team members come not only from Goddard and other NASA centers, but also from industry and universities in the United States and from other countries including France and Mexico.
Check out the newly launched SAM Web Page!!
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch in 2013, will explore the upper atmosphere of Mars, including its ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds, such as CO2, NO2, and H2O, from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of the martian atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.
The MAVEN project will be managed by GSFC. In addition to managing the project, GSFC will contribute two instruments, the Magnetometer (MAG) and the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS). The NGIMS will be provided by the Planetary Environments Laboraotry (699). It will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral ions. Learn more about Goddard's contributionts to MAVEN here.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is designed to characterize the tenuous lunar atmosphere (exosphere) and dust environment from orbit. The scientific objectives of the mission are:
LADEE is expected to launch in early 2013 aboard a Minotaur V. The nominal science orbit will last 100 days. The orbiter will carry a neutral mass spectrometer (built by the Planetary Environments Laboratory), an ultraviolet/visible spectrometer, and a dust detector. The Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS) will detect and constrain the abundances of species expected to be prevalent at 50 km altitude. LADEE NMS will observe the spatial distribution and temporal variability of species which condense at nighttime and show peak concentrations at the dawn terminator, possible episodic release from the lunar interior, and the results of sputtering or desorption processes from the regolith. The NMS is a quadrupole mass spectrometer designed to detect or obtain new upper limits for species up to 150 amu and will look for He, Ar, CH4, S, Kr, Xe, Fe, Al, Mg, and OH. To date only He, Ar-40, K, Na, and Rn-222 have been firmly identified in the lunar exosphere.