Planning for the Scientific Exploration
of Mars by Humans
By the MEPAG Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group
MEPAG Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group (HEM-SAG)
James B. Garvin (co-chair), Joel S. Levine (co-chair), David W. Beaty, Ariel D. Anbar, Mary Sue Bell, R. Todd Clancy, Charles S. Cockrell, Jack E. Connerney, Peter T. Doran, Gregory Delory, Jay T. Dickson, Richard C. Elphic, Dean B. Eppler, David C. Fernandez-Remolar, John E. Gruener, James W. Head, Mark Helper, Jennifer Heldmann, Victoria Hipkin, Melissa D. Lane, Joseph Levy, Jeff Moersch, Gain Gabriele Ori, Lewis Peach, Francois Poulet, James W. Rice, Kelly J. Snook, Steven W. Squyres and James R. Zimbelman
January 31, 2008
Recommended bibliographic citation:
MEPAG HEM-SAG (2008). Planning for the Scientific Exploration of Mars by Humans,
Unpublished white paper, TBD p, posted March 2008 by the Mars Exploration
Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) at http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/reports/index.html.
Inquiries should be directed to James B. Garvin (firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-286-5154),
Joel S. Levine (email@example.com, 757-864-5692),
or David W. Beaty (David.Beaty@jpl.nasa.gov, 818-354-7968)
Executive Summary 1
Why Mars? 3
Why Humans? 3
General Conclusions 5
Geology: Human Exploration Goals and Objectives 6
Geophysics: Human Exploration Goals and Objectives 18
Atmosphere/Climate: Human Exploration Goals and Objectives 30
Biology/Life: Human Exploration Goals and Objectives 42
A. Candidate Human Exploration Sites 61
B. Atmosphere/Climate: Human Exploration Goals and Objectives 68
C. The Human Exploration of Mars: Lessons Learned from Apollo (James W. Head) 83
Mars will remain an attractive destination for science for decades to come and the pace of discoveries about the workings of the Red Planet could be dramatically accelerated by means of human-based exploration at any time it becomes possible. In the context of a set of three initial human expeditions to Mars at some time beyond the current event horizon (i.e., in ~25 years, meaning 2030s or 2040s), a team of experienced planetary scientists with diverse scientific backgrounds has analyzed scientific priorities and scenarios for such missions, under the overarching precept that scientific discovery is a major aspect of such missions. The Human Exploration of Mars Scientific Analysis Group (HEM-SAG) derived human science reference missions using constraints provided by engineers affiliated with the 2007 Mars Architecture Team (B. Drake et al., NASA JSC) as well as the current scientific priorities for Mars exploration summarized in the 2007 MEPAG Goals and Objectives reference document as well as recent National Academy of Sciences Solar System Decadal Survey recommendations (New Frontiers, NRC, 2003). After initial evaluation of the state of knowledge about Mars today (circa 2007), the HEM-SAG projected this state of knowledge forward to ~2030, under the assumption that a robotic Mars sample return mission must be accomplished prior to Human scientific activities on the martian surface. The HEM-SAG concluded that in any science-driven or science-guided program of human exploration, each of three baselined human missions must visit independent and distinct “exploration sites” for maximal periods of time, as dictated by the realities of flight dynamics and celestial mechanics. Thus, the overarching conclusion of the HEM-SAG is for three human exploration missions to scientifically (i.e, in terms of surface age of materials and scientific problem focus) target different regions for periods of up to 500 days on the surface, enabled by means of moderate-to-long range human mobility (100’s of km) and multi-100m scale subsurface access. Scientific priorities at the time of the first HEM missions (2030s or 2040s) would likely remain similar to those of today, in spite of major progress underway from the current US and International robotic Mars programs (NASA’s MEP, ESA’s science programme). In addition, there are “pass-backs” from what we need to be able to accomplish on Mars for science that could be validated and optimized via human exploration activities on the Moon, including unique aspects of sample acquisition and handling, in situ characterization, deep subsurface access, and long-range surface mobility, potentially with pressurized human roving vehicles. Mars, in the view of the HEM-SAG, represents an ideal target for intensive human-based and enabled surface scientific operations for the next 50 years.
To prepare for the exploration of Mars by humans, as outlined in the new national Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), formed a Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group (HEM-SAG) in March 2007. The goal of HEM-SAG is to develop the scientific goals and objectives for the scientific exploration of Mars by humans. The HEM-SAG is one several parallel NASA humans to Mars scientific, engineering and mission architecture studies going on in 2007 to support NASA’s planning for the VSE. The HEM-SAG consists of about 30 Mars scientists representing the disciplines of Mars geology, geophysics, atmospheric/climate science and biology/life science from the U.S., Canada, England, France, Italy and Spain (It was decided very early that the international Mars community should be represented on HEM-SAG). Drs. James B. Garvin (NASA Goddard) and Joel S. Levine (NASA Langley) were appointed co-chairs of HEM-SAG. The HEM-SAG team conducted 20 telecons beginning on March 21, 2007. HEM-SAG convened three face-to-face meetings: 1. May 3-4, 2007, at USRA Headquarters, Columbia, MD, 2. July 8, 2007 at the Pasadena Hilton, and 3. October 23-24, 2007, at USRA Headquarters, Columbia, MD, On May 17, the interim HEM-SAG interim findings were reported to MEPAG management (Drs. Ray Arvidson, past MEPAG Chair and Jack Mustard, MEPAG Chair) and MEP management (Drs. Michael Meyer, MEP, NASA Headquarters and Rich Zurek, MEP, JPL) via telecon.
The scientific goals and objectives for the human exploration of Mars discussed in this report are based on the Mars Scientific Goals, Objectives, and Priorities: 2006, (MEPAG, 2006) (J. Grant, editor, 31 page white paper posted February, 2006, by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) at http://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/reports/index.html.