By Ron Sparkman | @UpportunityU.com
During the Future In-Space Operations Telecon on March 16th, Ben Bussey, Chief Exploration Scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), and Rick Davis, NASA Assistant Director for Science and Exploration in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), detailed the finer points of the planned creation of an outpost for the first few human missions to Mars.
Bussey started the telecon focusing on landing sites, exploration zones, and human habitats. He said the main focuses for determining landing sites revolve around the science that can be achieved in the chosen areas, as well as the local resources required to support the first human crews. The Human Landing Site Study (HLS2) was developed to revisit where they had previously discussed landing on Mars and implementing those ideas with the current plan. Initially, Design Reference Mission 5.0 (DRM 5.0) called for three separate missions to three different locations each lasting around 500 days, but Bussey said the new Evolvable Mars Campaign would see the first crewed missions going back to the same site. This birthed the term “Exploration Zone” (EZ), which is where the first few crews would explore, instead of the multitude of landing sites as previously suggested by DRM 5.0. This research-and-observations base will have an exploration radius of approximately 100km (62 miles), which is the projected distance human-driven rovers should be able to cover by then. All human operations will be at the center of the radius–living quarters, labs, etc.
A caller asked if the technologies needed to maximize the science while on the planet had been discussed. Bussey said that while the findings behind the particular workshop they were discussing had revolved around the technologies to get to the planet, he still found it an interesting thought for the future on what technologies would be needed to study on the surface, as well what will be needed to determine the kind of rocks that should be brought back.
He followed with suggesting that the next workshop would naturally follow up with these sorts of ideas, saying the teams would be asked to think about the science that could be achieved in these EZs and what sort of technology development would be most beneficial in maximizing that science.
Following talks about other missions like ISS having a permanent human presence in space, a caller asked if this means that Mars missions lasting 1,000 days or more had been discussed, hinting at a permanent settlement. Bussey said that the crews would stay for a while but ultimately leave the outpost, being replaced by a new crew at future dates. And while a permanent colony isn’t coming anytime soon as far as NASA is concerned, Davis mentioned that you don’t achieve sustainability from the get go, but that is something you build to. Space.com goes into finer details on this portion of the talk, as well as divulging details on SpaceX‘s plans for Mars, which Musk plans to talk more about in September, as well as the more-than-controversial Mars One plan.
These details only scratch the surface of the call, which dives into further details. Download the MP3 here and discuss the parts your most excited about in the comments below.