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NASA Announces Two Proposed 2011 Mars Missions

WASHINGTON- NASA has selected a pair of Mars missions for further study for a2011 flight opportunity.

The U.S. spaceagency announced this week that it had selected competing mission proposalsfrom two Boulder, Colo.-based institutions to spend the next nine months and $2million refining their concepts in advance of selecting one of the missions inlate 2007 for full development as NASA's next MarsScout mission. The chosen mission would have to launch by 2011 at a cost ofno more than $475 million. The two finalists were selected from more thantwo-dozen proposals the agency received last summer.

The MarsAtmosphere and Evolution Mission, or Maven, was proposed by prominentastrobiologist Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado, Boulder, to"address key questions about Mars climate and habitability and improveunderstanding of dynamic processes in the upper Martian atmosphere andionosphere," according to a NASA news release. NASA's Goddard Space FlightCenter, Greenbelt, Md., would manage the project.

The GreatEscape mission, proposed by AlanStern of the Boulder-based Southwest Research Institute would, according tothe release, "directly determine the basic processes in Martian atmosphericevolution by measuring the structure and dynamics of the upper atmosphere." Thespacecraft would also seek out and measure "potentially biogenic atmosphericconstituents such as methane." Stern currently is the principal investigator onNASA's NewHorizons mission, which was launchedin January 2006 on a nine-year journey to Plutoand the KuiperBelt.

NASA alsoannounced Jan. 8 that it will spend $800,000 for St. Louis-based WashingtonUniversity researcher Alicia Wang to participate as a member of the scienceteam for the European Space Agency's 2013 ExoMarsmission.

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