Next-generation robotic planetary reconnaissance missions: A paradigm shift

Wolfgang Fink, James M. Dohm, Mark A. Tarbell, Trent M. Hare, Victor R. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


A fundamentally new scientific mission concept for remote planetary surface and subsurface reconnaissance will soon replace the engineering and safety constrained mission designs of the past, allowing for optimal acquisition of geologic, paleohydrologic, paleoclimatic, and possible astrobiologic information of Mars and other extraterrestrial targets. Traditional missions have performed local ground-level reconnaissance through rovers and immobile landers, or global mapping performed by an orbiter. The former is safety and engineering constrained, affording limited detailed reconnaissance of a single site at the expense of a regional understanding, while the latter returns immense datasets, often overlooking detailed information of local and regional significance. A "tier-scalable" paradigm integrates multi-tier (orbit⇔ atmosphere⇔ground) and multi-agent (orbiter⇔blimps⇔rovers/ sensorwebs) hierarchical mission architectures, not only introducing mission redundancy and safety, but enabling and optimizing intelligent, unconstrained, and distributed science-driven exploration of prime locations on Mars and elsewhere, allowing for increased science return, and paving the way towards fully autonomous robotic missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1419-1426
Number of pages8
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number14-15
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Astrobiology
  • Mission redundancy and safety
  • Multi-agents
  • Multi-tier exploration
  • Robotic planetary exploration
  • Tier-scalable mission autonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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