|ASI and Mars Exploration||
The Italian agency is fully committed!
by Luisa Spairani
The interest of the international scientific community in the field of the planetary search currently is aimed at the Mars exploration.
NASA planned activities: NASA has begun with succeeding its Decennale Program with the Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Global Surveyor and has as soon as given beginning to the Mars Surveyor ' 98 with the launch of the Mars Climate Orbiter (3 Decembers ' 98) and the Mars Polar Lander(3 January 1999); the American commitment will then continue with the mission Mars 2001 Surveyor and one series of launch about every 18 months until the end of the 2004. The Mars Climate Observer lost behind Mars, happened to the end of 99 September has not substantially changed the program.
Italy is considered partner to full title from NASA in the missions that will bring back the samples of the Martian ground on the Earth in 2003-2005 (NASA Sample Return Programme). The ASI will supply in fact an integrated system, composed from a robotic arm, a driller and one series of scientific instruments for the analysis in situ of the gathered samples.
ESA planned activities: ESA has approved of November 1998 the mission Mars Express that in the June of the 2003 will carry in the space an orbiter and lander cargoes of scientific instruments.
The Italian community thinks strategic the participation to this first international plan of Mars's exploration. Such participation is articulated on two main projects, strongly connected.
Italy will participate in a significant way with the
development of the scientific instrumentation on board of
the mission Mars Express, and even with the development of
the system of telecommunications between the satellite and the
stations on the Mars surface. As a result of these agreements the
mission has become one combined mission ASI/ESA (greater
information on page ASI of Mars Express).
The aim of the Mars Express mission is the exploration of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. The satellite that will enter in the Mars orbit in December 2003, will have on board some of the instruments developed and realized for the unlucky Russian mission Mars '96. In addition it will have a new instrumentation and a new telecommunications system that will be in charge to communicate with the probes that in 2003/2007 will reach the Mars surface.
The Italian participation to the mission is significant, so that has been called a combined mission ESA/ASI. Two of the six instruments on board of the satellite are driven from Italian Principal Investigators:
Moreover Italian Co-Investigators are present on OMEGA (the visible channel is developed and realized from the IFSI/CNR), ASPERA and HRSC.
The ASI is also directly responsible of the Mars Relay System- MARESS, that it will concur with the probes and the present stations on the Mars surface to communicate with MARS EXPRESS and therefore with the Earth. MARESS has moreover the task to characterize the canister of the Mars Ascent Vehicle, in orbits around Mars and will permit to bring back samples from Martian ground.
The Italian community interested and committed to the study of the Mars planet, subdivided in its scientific, technological and industrial components, has carried out and continues a wide and deepened debate on the perspectives of Italian participation to the short Martian exploration in, medium and long term organizing specific workshops.
The arguments during the Workshop of the ' 98 have been articulated in the five subgroups " Science in remote sensing ", " international Science in situ ", " Science and technology ", " Esobiology ", " Programs in the long term and collaborations ".
Hereafter the synthesis of the main reccomendations:
As result of the thematic groups, moreover the following recommendations are emerged:
ASI support has concurred one constant and important Italian scientific presence in the several missions of planetary exploration. The increase of the planetology and planetary geology is accompanied to a parallel technological development, with meaningful industrial revenues. This reality is explicitly recognized from NASA as far as the robotics and the technologies of drilling. The scientific components linked to the field of Sciences of the Life have developed one equally meaningful position in the study of the influences of the space atmosphere on the several known shapes of life. Experiments with Italian P.I. are, in this field, constantly accommodated on programmed Shuttle flights or nowadays for the Space Station. ESA and NASA are emphasizing the role of esobiologic searches in the within of the Mars Exploration. The rich programming, in the next decade, of having missions the declared purpose to search the existence of traces of shapes of life on Mars finds an involvment from Italian planetology and planetary geology but itis clearly insufficient or inexistent the involvment of biological competencies (biophysics, biochemic, microbiology, cellular biology, evolutionary biology , archeobiology,...).
The esobiology represents one new area of search connoted from an elevated rate interdisciplinarity. It is not a case that NASA has recently activated a Institute of Astrobiology with the explicit attempt to stimulate and to coordinate the participation of various competencies to esobiology plans. The modest involvement of the scientific biological member of the national community in the esobiology plans risks to heavy disable the participation of Italian science to the Mars exploration. This deficit would be serious for the experiments in situ, but perhaps still more meaningful in case of the Italian participation to the analysis at its labs of the Martian sample .
The national community thinks strategic for the Country the Italian participation to the international Program of exploration of Mars, like moreover already previewed from the National Space Plan in vigor.
How much already made from the ASI in order to assure one is thought in fact of extreme validity qualified scientific participation and industrial to the missions planned from the ESA and NASA for opportunities 2003 and 2005, in perfect coherence with the assumed strategic indications to the base of the aforesaid PSN. Moreover, Italy can count on the acquired abilities in order to support the interest to participate to all the phases of the Mars exploration, included the inhabited missions.
Therefore it is necessary:
1. To be able to count on a predetermined budget that it concurs with the ASI to take engagements on along period, assuring to the scientific community the maintenance of the real opportunity of participation to the Mars exploration;
2. To develop to a technological long -term program in preparation and support of the Italian scientific participation to the Mars exploration ;
3. To predispose, to the aim to obtain the maximum turned out in terms is scientific that of image from the Italian participation to the Mars exploration, a laboratory in Italy in a position to international point of reference for the analysis of the samples brought back to earth, extensible a analogous missions from other bodies of the solar system;
4. To pursue the opportunities of collaboration in missions inhabited on Mars for the strong scientific and technological interest and for the possibility of using the competences matured in Italy in the afferent disciplines
5. To use the Program of exploration of Mars and the correspective Italian participation as a pilot project for a huge training and educational program.
LATEST NEWS FROM ASI
From ASI still does not have news of the result of last workshop held in Rome 8-9 September 99.
International workshop "The Italian role and perspectives for the Exploration of Mars" "Pantelleria in Rome"
Hereafter the dealt arguments are listed. One complete relation on this workshop will be made available in the next numbers of this review.