NASA Wants YOU To Plan Martian Exploration

Published: April 16, 2012

Well, not YOU, unless you’re a rocket scientist, but click through to see NASA finally use the term ‘mother-ship’.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think that exploring Mars is a cool and entirely worthwhile goal for the world’s space agencies. Unfortunately, it kind of does take a rocket scientist to actually contribute to the planning and execution of these sorts of excursions. But if you happen to be a rocket scientist, or astrobiologist, or similarly impressive-sounding space scientist, then NASA wants your input. The space agency is holding a three-day session from June 12-14 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, for which they’re issuing a clarion call “to seek community ideas, concepts and capabilities to address critical challenge areas, focusing on a near-term timeframe spanning 2018 through 2024, and a mid- to longer-term timeframe spanning 2024 to the mid-2030s.” While these timeframes might not necessarily be long enough to look at manned missions to the Red Planet, there’s plenty more that NASA wants to take a crack at, including:

• “Game-changing technologies for ascent systems (e.g., new propulsion systems or propellants) from the surface of Mars to radically reduce mass or volume and/or improve ability to withstand long-term storage on the planet’s surface;”

• “Advanced spacecraft subsystems (e.g., power systems, avionics, thermal control) that reduce cost and/or risk, reduce mass, or enable new and unique investigations;”

• “Concepts for low-cost demonstration of aeroassist (aerocapture and EDL) technologies scalable to future human mission applications (e.g., large rigid aeroshells, inflatable aeroshells, supersonic retro-propulsion);”

• “Concepts for public-private partnerships to provide infrastructure, services, instruments, or investigation platforms that can lower the cost and/or risk of future Mars exploration;”

• “Lightweight, low-cost, probes or platforms (single or multiple), suitable to be carried by larger orbital or landed vehicles (“mother-ships”).”

Freakin’ mother-ships, man. If you’re in the space sciences and not actively trying to build a mothership for smaller landing craft, then you’re dead to us. But seriously. Help out NASA. Lord knows they need it.