VIRTUAL WORKSHOP: Revolutionizing Access to the Martian Surface

March 29 - April 2, 2021
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Workshop Overview:

Mars exploration has progressed to the point that the most pressing scientific questions and needed measurements can only be addressed by missions to the surface. These include compositional and isotopic studies of Mars rock stratigraphies to search for life and decipher drivers of changing habitability, the drilling and study of subsurface ice, and study of active geophysics and near-surface meteorology. 

Historically, many NASA missions have a high per-unit cost because they are one-of-a-kind and push the envelopes in many technical areas simultaneously. However, to enable a cadence of multiple landed missions at Mars, new cost-efficient approaches are required. Multiple craft builds like the earliest NASA missions, successfully echoed with twin Mars rovers in 2004, or innovations driven by the commercial sector may be the answer. Our ability to manufacture and operate fleets of spacecrafts in orbit is improving through increased systems autonomy, reduced launch costs, shrinking instruments and spacecraft size, the emergence of secondary launch opportunities, and the growing role of the commercial sector in scientific space exploration. 

In this workshop, we propose to study how to substantially reduce the cost associated with landed missions to Mars by novel system designs (e.g., for delivery to Mars, entry-descent-landing, landed asset design, operations) and examining cost models, institutional/project management processes, and non-traditional partnerships with industry. We focus on Mars because now is the prime time to consider “what comes next?” during and after Mars sample return and because there are a diverse science questions that can only be addressed in situ. We expect lessons from this study will enable new approaches for in situ exploration across solar system targets (e.g., the Moon, asteroids).

There are three primary goals for the workshop:

  • Goal 1 is to identify the most important measurements related to Decadal survey science questions that require distributed measurements at the Martian surface, and what instruments/platforms/mobility are required to achieve them.
  • Goal 2 is to conceive the mission architecture to access the Martian surface (entry-descent-landing; EDL) and conduct efficient operations of multiple Mars assets.
  • Goal 3 is to identify how/if emerging commercial lunar capabilities can be leveraged to break the mass-cost dependency for Mars surface missions.

We will address all three workshop goals by (a) examining key science questions, (b) reviewing opportunities for improving the technical capability of key planetary explorations systems; (c) examining current Mars operations approaches; and (d) reviewing systems design, build, mission assurance, and costing procedures and how these can change with a commitment to multiple builds and partnerships with commercial vendors.

Schedule Coming Soon...

List of Workshop Participants Coming Soon...