CEE's Dr. Greg Baecher Appointed To NASA Science Committee

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It was announced today that Dr. Gregory Baecher, G.L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, has been appointed to the Planetary Protection Subcommittee of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The Committee, which includes representatives of industry, academe, and Government, assesses issues and risks of biological contamination for planetary missions, and for biological contamination associated with the launch and return of spacecraft in interplanetary missions and their potential failure modes.

The committee is currently focusing on the Mars Sample Return Mission. This Flagship mission calls for five spacecraft: an Earth/Mars transfer stage, a Mars orbiter, a descent module, an ascent module and an Earth re-entry vehicle. When the orbiter is in low-altitude orbit around Mars the descent module will be released and descend to the surface of Mars. On board the landing platform of the descent module will be a device to collect samples and an ascent vehicle.

Once samples of Martian soil have been collected they will be loaded on the Mars ascent vehicle. This will then be launched into orbit around the planet to rendezvous with the Earth re-entry vehicle. After the rendezvous has taken place the Earth re-entry vehicle will return to Earth on a ballistic trajectory with the Martian samples. These will be recovered and isolated in a ‘curation’ facility to prevent contamination of the samples and to allow scientists to analyze them in safety.

(News item source: NASA press release)

Congratulations to Dr. Baecher!

Published February 5, 2008