Mariner Mark II
's planned family of unmanned spacecraft
for the exploration of the outer solar system
that were to be developed and operated by JPL
between 1990 through the year 2010.
After the “flagship” multibillion-dollar missions of the 1970s, in the 1980s NASA was looking for a new, more affordable direction for the 1990s and beyond. Two projects were conceived by NASA's Solar System Exploration Committee in 1983, the Planetary Observer program
, and Mariner Mark II.
The Observer program, starting with the Mars Observer
, was envisioned as a series of low-cost missions to the inner solar system, based on commercial Earth satellites, while the Mariner Mark II was to be a series of large spacecraft for the exploration of the outer solar system.
Mariner Mark II spacecraft were to utilize common design, hardware and software solutions, much of it derived from previous missions such as Voyager
as well as select new technologies, such as advanced gyroscopes, all with the aim of cutting costs. It was hoped that this new approach would reduce the mission costs to about $400 million each, about half the price of Galileo.
The first two missions of the project were to be a mission to Saturn and its moon Titan, the Saturn Orbiter/Titan Probe
, or SOTP
) and the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby
, or CRAF
, both of which were approved by Congress in 1990.
Other planned Mariner Mark II based spacecraft were an ESA
led follow-on to CRAF, the Comet Nucleus......