Mars-Moons Exploration, Reconnaissance and Landed Investigation (MERLIN)
Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
The Mars-Moons Exploration, Reconnaissance and Landed Investigation (MERLIN) is a NASA Discovery mission proposal to explore the moons of Mars. Previous Mars-focused spacecraft have raised fundamental questions about Mars' moons: What are their origins and compositions? Why do the moons resemble primitive outer solar system D-type objects? How do geologic processes modify their surfaces? MERLIN answers these questions through a combination of orbital and landed measurements, beginning with reconnaissance of Deimos and investigation of the hypothesized Martian dust belts. Orbital reconnaissance of Phobos occurs, followed by low flyovers to characterize a landing site. MERLIN lands on Phobos, conducting a 90-day investigation. Radiation measurements are acquired throughout all mission phases. Phobos' size and mass provide a low-risk landing environment: controlled descent is so slow that the landing is rehearsed, but gravity is high enough that surface operations do not require anchoring. Existing imaging of Phobos reveals low regional slope regions suitable for landing, and provides knowledge for planning orbital and landed investigations. The payload leverages past NASA investments. Orbital imaging is accomplished by a dual multispectral/high-resolution imager rebuilt from MESSENGER/MDIS. Mars' dust environment is measured by the refurbished engineering model of LADEE/LDEX, and the radiation environment by the flight spare of LRO/CRaTER. The landed workspace is characterized by a color stereo imager updated from MER/HazCam. MERLIN’s arm deploys landed instrumentation using proven designs from MER, Phoenix, and MSL. Elemental measurements are acquired by a modified version of Rosetta/APXS, and an uncooled gamma-ray spectrometer. Mineralogical measurements are acquired by a microscopic imaging spectrometer developed under MatISSE. MERLIN delivers seminal science traceable to NASA’s Strategic Goals and Objectives, Science Plan, and the Decadal Survey. MERLIN’s science-driven investigations also provide insight into Mars' particulate and radiation environment, Phobos’ composition and regolith properties, and Phobos’ inventory of in situ resources, filling strategic knowledge gaps to pioneer the way for future human exploration of the Mars system.