Conference E: Mars Session
John Brandenburg- Chair Frank Mead- Co-Chair

Human landing and settlement of the Mars system will be a watershed event in human history. It will dwarf the Apollo Moon landings in significance.  For the first time humans will journey across deep space and set foot upon another living world. This key challenge defines a new millennium.  The attainment of Mars requires a quantum leap in space flight technology and imagination.

Advanced propulsion and space power are key enablers for a human Mars mission. Chemical rocket technology was sufficient for the Moon, but is inadequate for the greater challenge of colonizing Mars. New higher performance propulsion technologies must be developed. Using nuclear or electric heating for thrust presents new dangers and technical difficulties. Conceivably, early missions to Mars can operate with large-scale solar electric propulsion, using the MET (microwave Electro-Thermal), which uses water propellant and has a sufficient exhaust velocity.

A power source for human settlements must be developed. Mars receives only half the sunlight intensity of earth, and dust storms can reduce that to zero for months. Nuclear power would appear to be mandatory for any extended human stay on Mars.  However, not all of Mars’ realities are as harsh as the Moon’s. There is evidence that it may have once supported life and perhaps there is evidence to be found that it still does. We need to understand Mars’ history and evolution. Among other puzzles, some geological evidence eons ago may suggest that Mars saw surface nuclear events.

Mars is not only a planet but a system; its two moons Phobos and Deimos provide ready-made space stations. The inner moon Phobos is 10 km long; it provides abundant material for radiation shield and perhaps propellant.  Its weak gravity means that visitors do not land on Phobos but dock with it. The absence of a magnetic field at Mars eliminates the hazards of a van Allen belt and allows easy access to Phobos’ surface for astronauts. For a surface landing, Mars’ atmosphere provides a convenient brake and also a resource for making rocket fuel for liftoff. Mars has water, useful as propellant as well as a necessity of life. Mars presents us with a historic challenge on one hand, but with abundant resources and help on the other.

We seek technical papers that will develop mission concepts and strategies to address these key issues of Mars.

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