Where would you land humans on Mars? NASA seeks proposals
NASA has decided to give science communities a chance to discuss potential landing sites for future crewed missions to Mars. During the Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars to be held Oct. 27-30, 2015, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX, NASA will seek proposals for locations where humans could land, live, and work on the Martian surface.
The potential locations, dubbed Exploration Zones (EZ), are a collection of Regions of Interest (ROIs) that are located within approximately 60 miles (100 km) of a centralized landing site. Each EZ needs to offer compelling science research possibilities while also providing resources that astronauts could take advantage of during their stay on Mars.
These candidate EZs might be used by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Science Mission Directorate as part of a multi-year process of determining where and how the agency might explore the Red Planet with astronauts.
Existing robotic spacecraft, such as Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, as well future spacecraft, will be tasked to provide additional image data for better maps of EZs, and also to gather valuable scientific data.
NASA hopes to engage scientists, technologists, and experts in human exploration during the conference – fostering collaboration among the teams that will enable humans to live on and explore Mars in the coming decades. It is anticipated that funding and support for future calls will be available for teams of scientists and engineers to conduct detailed characterizations of the EZs that emerge from this workshop.
“Input from the science and human spaceflight communities are critical to identification of optimal landing sites for future human missions to the surface of Mars. We look forward to your involvement in these activities!” NASA said in a statement.
NASA is currently developing the capabilities needed to send humans to Mars in the 2030s – a goal outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.
Beginning in FY 2018, NASA’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will work to enable manned missions beyond Earth’s orbit. Human missions to Mars will rely on Orion and an evolved version of SLS that will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.
It is hoped that this preliminary work on potential landing sites will facilitate dialog about this next giant leap in human experience.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.