Group Project

For inspiration: look at the 2013 Planetary Science Decadal Survey

Goal: Design a mission to a solar system object of your choice.


Groups of three students will work together to put together a mission concept that furthers our understanding of the processes that govern solar system objects. As a team, you will select a solar system object (asteroid, comet, planet, or moon), and design a mission to investigate that object. As a group, you will be responsible for summarizing the current state of knowledge about the object and describing how your mission will help to fill the gaps in the scientific understanding that currently exists. Each team member will describe a specific instrument on the mission, demonstrating an understanding of how that kind of instrument gathers data and what sorts of scientific questions it is capable of addressing. In addition, each team member will provide specific predictions, based on concepts learned in class, of what their instrument will see. Grades will be based on the soundness of the mission concept, the degree to which the instruments fit the mission goals, and the extent to which concepts from class were incorporated into the mission design.


Your target object cannot be the Sun, Mars, Earth, or Europa.


  1. A one-page project summary, indicating your target object, the pheonomenon or phonemena you will investigate, and at least three instruments that would help to investigate the object and why each is important. DUE November 5.
  2. A five-page project writeup. This will incorporate two pages of introduction, motivation, and justification for the mission you propose, to be completed by all group members working together. In addition, each group member will produce a one-page description of their instrument, identifying its design, measurement goals, and expected results. This description should explain how the instrument fulfills part of the mission goals and why it is necessary for the investigation you propose. You should identify, if possible, any instruments that have flown in the past that are similar to your instrument and explain why yours is different or better. Format is not restricted, other than length; feel free to split your exposition into two parts to bookend your instruments, or put it all at the front. Complete writeups are due November 28.
  3. A fifteen minute project presentation, to be completed by all group members working together. Presentations will be held on November 28, the same day as writeups are due. Your presentation should be self-contained, and understandable not just by the instructor but by the class as a whole. Your goal with the presentation is to explain why your mission should be the one selected to fly, given NASA’s limited budget. Keep in mind that the urgency and validity of your scientific goals are the most important considerations in determining whether a mission is worthy of taxpayer funds.


10% Project Summary (Due Nov. 5)

5% Identification of Target and Scientific Problem (regardless of validity)

5% Identification of specific instruments to investigate target (as long as justification for instrument is consistent)

60% Project Writeup (Due Nov. 28)

20% Mission Description

10% Background (What is already known?)

10% Justification (How will your mission fill the gaps in our knowledge?)

40% Instrument Description

10% Appropriateness to mission (Is your instrument necessary to the mission?)

10% Originality (How is this instrument different or better than other flown before?)

20% Incorporating Scientific Concepts Discussed in Class (for predictions and justification)

30% Presentation (Taking place Nov. 28)

10% Clarity of Presentation to a General Audience

10% Excitement Factor

10% Incorporation of Scientific Concepts from Class


Group 1: Jessie Lopez, Mason Green, Peter Sola

Group 2: John Carter, Zachary Ward, Amanda Bueno

Group 3: Rachel Bigos, Zephy Golstein, Tyler Miller

Group 4: Matt Ciancio, Keastin Halliburton, Jacqueline Martineau

Group 5: Rose Wasmundt, Kayleen Tyler, David Christensen

Group 6: Caitlin Lovett, Richard Browne