The Office of Chief Technologist (OCT), NASA has identified the need for research and technology development in part from NASA's Strategic Goal 3.3 of the NASA Strategic Plan to develop and demonstrate the critical technologies that will make NASA's exploration, science, and discovery missions more affordable and more capable. Furthermore, the Game Changing Development Program (GCDP) is a primary avenue to achieve the Agency's 2011 strategic goal to "Create the innovative new space technologies for our exploration, science, and economic future." In addition, recently released "NASA space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities," by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences stresses the need for NASA to invest in the very near term in specific EDL technologies. The report points out the following challenges (Page 2-38 of the pre-publication copy released on February 1, 2012): Mass to Surface: Develop the ability to deliver more payload to the destination. NASA's future missions will require ever-greater mass delivery capability in order to place scientifically significant instrument packages on distant bodies of interest, to facilitate sample returns from bodies of interest, and to enable human exploration of planets such as Mars. As the maximum mass that can be delivered to an entry interface is fixed for a given launch system and trajectory design, the mass delivered to the surface will require reduction in spacecraft structural mass; more efficient, lighter thermal protection systems; more efficient lighter propulsion systems; and lighter, more efficient deceleration systems. Surface Access: Increase the ability to land at a variety of planetary locales and at a variety of times. Access to specific sites can be achieved via landing at a specific location (s) or transit from a single designated landing location, but it is currently infeasible to transit long distances and through extremely rugged terrain, requiring landing close to the site of interest. The entry environment is not always guaranteed with a direct entry, and improving the entry system's robustness to a variety of environmental conditions could aid in reaching more varied landing sites."
International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW); 18-22 Jun. 2012; Toulouse; France