Mercury provides unique insights regarding the original distribution of elements in the early phases of solar system creation, as well as how planets and exoplanets form and evolve in close proximity to their host stars, as an end-member of terrestrial planet formation.
This Mercury Lander mission proposal allows for in-situ surface measurements to answer several key science problems generated by MESSENGER’s groundbreaking investigation of Mercury. Mercury’s unique mineralogy and geochemistry require such measurements in order to characterise the proportionally massive core’s structure, measure the planet’s active and ancient magnetic fields at the surface, investigate the processes that alter the surface and produce the exosphere, and provide ground truth for current and future remote datasets.
This study was funded by NASA’s Planetary Mission Concept Studies programme to assess the feasibility of doing transformative science on Mercury in the next decade using a New-Frontiers-class landed mission. With an ambitious, high-heritage, landed science payload, the final mission plan achieves one full Mercury year (88 Earth days) of surface operations, which aligns nicely with the New Frontiers mission framework. The 11-instrument science payload is transported to a landing site within Mercury’s widely distributed low-reflectance material, and it focuses on geochemistry, geophysics, the Mercury space environment, and surface geology.
This mission design is meant to be symbolic of any future scientific landed mission to Mercury; alternative payload implementations and landing places for a future landed Mercury mission would be realistic and attractive.
Mercury Lander: A Study of Planetary Mission Concepts for the Decadal Survey 2023-2032
Sanae Kubota (1), Nancy Chabot (1), Rachel Klima (1), Gabe Rogers (1), Paul Byrne (2), Kathleen E. Vander Kaaden (4), Ronald J. Vervack Jr. (1), Sebastien Besse (5), David Blewett (1), Brett Denevi (1), Sander Goossens (6), Stephen Indyk (7), Noam Izenberg (1), Catherine Johnson (8), Lauren Jozwiak (1), Haje Korth (1), (11) (1) The Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, (2) North Carolina State University, (3) Case Western Reserve University, (4) Case Western Reserve University, (5) Case Western Reserve University, (6) Case Western Reserve (4) NASA Johnson Space Center, (5) Aurora Technology BV for the European Space Agency (ESA), (6) University of Maryland Baltimore County is a public university in Baltimore, Maryland. (7) Honeybee Robotics, (8) Planetary Science Institute, (5) University of Michigan, (6) University of Michigan, (7) University of Michigan, (8) University of Michigan, (8) University of Michigan, (8) University of Michigan (11) Purdue University, 10) NASA Johnson Space Center
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