Two Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission ideas to be studied
Posted: September 29, 2003

In the first step of a two-step process, NASA has selected two teams to conduct concept studies for the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission, the fourth investigation in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probe mission line.

The proposals selected for further study address the scientific objective of the MMS mission, to explore and understand fundamental plasma-physics processes of magnetic reconnection, particle acceleration and turbulence in the Earth's magnetosphere. These three processes, which control the flow of energy, mass and momentum, within and across magnetospheric boundaries, occur throughout the universe and are fundamental to our understanding of astrophysical and solar system plasmas.

The selected proposals that will provide instrument suites dedicated to the pursuit of the MMS science objectives are:

  • "An Instrument Suite for the Magnetospheric Multi-Scale Mission," led by Dr. James P. McFadden of the University of California at Berkeley; and

  • "Solving Magnetospheric Acceleration, Reconnection, and Turbulence," led by Dr. James L. Burch of Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.

"The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission will help us understand the fundamental physical processes responsible for transfer of energy from the solar wind to the Earth's magnetosphere," said Dick Fisher, Director of the Sun-Earth Connection Division in NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington.

"What we learn from MMS will have application far beyond the Earth, because the Earth's magnetosphere provides the only laboratory in which fundamental astrophysical plasma processes are readily accessible for sustained study. MMS results will directly contribute to NASA's mission to advance our scientific knowledge and understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe," Fisher explained.

The selected proposals, which were submitted to NASA in March 2003 in response to the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission Announcement of Opportunity, were both judged to have high scientific and technical merit. Each will receive $1 million to conduct a six-month implementation-feasibility study focused on cost, management and technical plans, including educational outreach and small business involvement.

The Solar Terrestrial Probe (STP) Program is a sequence of community-defined strategic projects that provide in-situ and remote sensing observations, from multiple platforms, for sustained study of the Sun-Earth system. The first STP, the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics mission was launched December 7, 2001. The next two missions in the STP program, Solar-B and the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, are scheduled for launch in 2006 and 2005 respectively.

The STP Program is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., for the Sun-Earth Connection Division of the Office of Space Science, Washington.

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