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I've been reading over NASA's Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0. In section 3.1.2, "Scientific objectives for Mars: present and future", when discussing future science missions to Mars, the document mentions:

Although other science missions will certainly be considered (most importantly, a network science mission)... [Highlighting mine]

What exactly is meant by a "network science mission"? Googling turns up mentions of a potential ESA mission called INSPIRE, most notably described in this paper, but I don't quite understand what is meant by network science. Is this referring to the ability to have multiple networked orbiters/landers/rovers on Mars? If so, how would this be different from the existing networks between the various rovers and Mars Odyssey/Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter/Mars Express?

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It refers to science objectives that are met by a large number of small, identical landers dispersed over the planet in latitude and longitude. These include seismological and weather observations, conducted over at least one Mars year. ("Network" doesn't mean that they communicate with each other, but rather simply that there are a lot of them.)

Interestingly, this was the original purpose of Mars Pathfinder. What that mission was intended to be the pathfinder for was "MESUR", Mars Environmental Survey, planned to be a network of 16 low-cost landers on Mars. (It ended up instead being a pathfinder for the Mars Exploration Rovers.)

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  • $\begingroup$ That's interesting reading on MESUR and Pathfinder; I didn't know that. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – DylanSp Apr 13 '16 at 16:50

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