Credit: Explore Mars, Inc./American Astronautical Society

Credit: Explore Mars, Inc./American Astronautical Society

While an international human mission to the surface of Mars in the 2030s deserves a thumbs up, green-light go, that trek to the Red Planet will require sufficient and stable long- term funding, as well as a critical series of risk-reduction activities in the 2020s.

A key example is a long-duration crew habitation system in cis-lunar space that transitions from the International Space Station (ISS) to the systems necessary for human Mars exploration.

That insight is from a set of findings and observations are available in a summary report of the Second Mars Affordability and Sustainability Workshop.

The workshop was held October 14-16 of last year, held at the Keck Institute for Space Studies on the campus of the California Institute of Technology. The gathering was hosted by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and organized by Explore Mars, Inc. and the American Astronautical Society.

One small step...one giant leap to Mars. Credit: Explore Mars, Inc./American Astronautical Society

One small step…one giant leap to Mars.
Credit: Explore Mars, Inc./American Astronautical Society

Antarctic analogy

The workshop did not endorse one-way missions to Mars, where the humans on the first mission are settlers.

Rather, the workshop concluded that significant public support and inspiration derives from the national pride of having astronauts from participating countries return to Earth to be celebrated.

Still, initial human missions to the surface of Mars should include elements necessary for eventual establishment of sustainable surface outposts broadly analogous to the initial phases of science-guided Antarctic exploration on Earth.

Workshop participants. Credit: Explore Mars, Inc./American Astronautical Society

Workshop participants.
Credit: Explore Mars, Inc./American Astronautical Society

Humans on Mars – precursor activities

Other select statements gleaned from the workshop summary include:

— A robotic sample return mission may be required to learn how to protect against forward and backward contamination before humans land on Mars.

— One potentially advantageous precursor activity is an “all-robotic” sample return to demonstrate high-mass entry, descent, and landing capabilities scalable to human-scale landers.

— Human missions to Mars orbit or the Martian moons – Phobos and Deimos — may be essential for risk reduction as immediate precursors to surface missions, which ultimately are the priority goal for human space flight.

— The scientific goals for lunar exploration are compelling. However, the technical capabilities required for human lunar surface operations are of limited applicability to human Mars exploration.

The full summary report will be posted shortly on the Explore Mars, Inc. web site at:

http://www.exploremars.org/

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