NASA is advancing the Journey to Mars by starting the conversation about where humans may one day land on the Red Planet. The agency is hosting a conference this fall to collect proposals on areas on Mars that would be of high scientific research value while also providing natural resources to enable human explorers to safely land, live and work on Mars.
NASA’s first Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars will be held Oct. 27-30 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. The conference will start the process for choosing sites on Mars that NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft along with any future missions over the coming decades could then further image to create better maps and provide valuable scientific data of these potential Exploration Zones.
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.
Potential “Exploration Zones” will need to offer compelling science research while also providing resources that our astronauts can take advantage of during their pioneering of the Red Planet. First explorers are expected to be limited to about 60 miles (100 km) of travel from their landing site due to life support and exploration technology requirements.
The life expectancy of the existing MRO and Odyssey spacecraft being limited, NASA is eager to take advantage of the remaining operational years of those Martian imagers to gather high resolution maps of potential exploration zones while the spacecraft, already well beyond their design lifetime, are still operational.
NASA’s efforts for building the knowledge and capabilities for sending humans to Mars is underway today, with spacecraft monitoring Mars from orbit and rovers on the surface, the International Space Station being used to test systems and to learn more about the health impacts of extended space travel, and the development and testing of the next generation of launch and crew vehicles — the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crewed spacecraft underway
As we explore the path to Mars, we gain new knowledge and capabilities that will make life better here on Earth, right now. This preliminary work on potential landing sites will facilitate dialogue about this next giant leap in human experience.