Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
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vendredi 9 juillet 2004 published two days ago an article named "Red Planet Wayfinder: A GPS System for Mars." You'll read that NASA researchers are studying a "global positioning satellite (GPS) system around Mars that could also function as a communications network." This would imply "a constellation of microsatellites, or Microsats, and one or more relatively large Mars Aerostationary Relay Satellites, or MARSats," according to the Mars Network website at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). These satellites will be "conducting their own science while watching over future robotic or human expeditions, then relaying data back to Earth," adds This sounds like a neat idea, but there are several issues here. First, the JPL site mentioned above has not been updated since 1999. Then, there is no mention of such a mission at NASA's Mars exploration program website. So, here is my question: is this a recycled 4-year old article or am I missing something? Anyway, even if the Marsnet program doesn't longer exist, the website contains spectacular images. UPDATE: Please read Tariq Malik's comments on this item very carefully! He explains very clearly that I focused on a single part of his article, and how I was completely wrong on what I wrote. So use this weekend to read his article. And Tarik, please accept my apologies.

The three images below are only artists' concepts and are extracted from this page (Credit: NASA/JPL).

Mars network deployed Here is the Mars network after deployment.
A Microsat with high-gain antenna deployed This is an artist's concept of the Microsat with high-gain antenna deployed.
A constellation of 3 Microsats And this is a constellation of 3 Microsats.

Now, let's return to

NASA researchers and scientists alike have been studying the requirements for a potential global positioning satellite (GPS) system around Mars that could also function as a communications network. Their vision is a small flotilla of Mars spacecraft conducting their own science while watching over future robotic or human expeditions, then relaying data back to Earth.
"The science requirements for communications and accurate position fixing are important needs," said Michael Mendillo, an astronomy professor with the Center for Space Physics at Boston University, in an e-mail interview.
Mendillo and a team of researchers studied the effect of Mars' ionosphere would have on a potential satellite navigation system around the planet. The research, which appeared in a recent edition of the journal Radio Science, is part of a broader effort by scientists to develop the satellite infrastructure for an anticipated fleet of rover missions to Mars in upcoming years.

After reading the above paragraphs, I checked Michael Mendillo home page and I found only 'old' publications. I also searched Radio Science and the most recent article written by Modillo was published in 2000, under the name "The application of GPS observations to equatorial aeronomy."

The article also mentions several NASA's researchers. However, it appears that they haven't be very active for a while. And a search on the site only shows the July 2004 article related to this project, but I don't know if all their contents are on the Web. So I repeat my question: was this article written in 2000 or in 2004?

Sources: Tariq Malik,, July 7, 2004; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

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