In an effort to find cheaper alternatives for the exploration of Mars following recent budget cuts, earlier this year NASA established the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG). To seek out the best and brightest ideas for a reformulated Mars exploration program, the group is calling on the public to submit ideas and concepts that will help inform new strategies for exploration of the Red Planet.
The call for innovative ideas and concepts is aimed at members of the scientific and technical communities who can submit abstracts online. These will be whittled down to a number of select concepts that will be presented during a workshop hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston in June.
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NASA says the workshop will provide an open forum for the presentation, discussion and consideration of concepts, options, capabilities and innovations to advance Mars exploration. These ideas will inform a strategy for exploration within available resources, beginning as early as 2018 and stretching into the next decade and beyond.
"Receiving input from our community is vital to energize the planning process," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. "We'll integrate inputs to ensure the next steps for the Mars Exploration Program will support science, as well as longer-term human exploration and technology goals."
"We're moving quickly to develop options for future Mars exploration missions and pathways," adds John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist, five-time space shuttle astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "As part of this process, community involvement, including international, is essential for charting the new agency-wide strategy for our future Mars exploration efforts."
Those wishing to make submissions have been asked to focus on three key challenge areas; Instrumentation and Investigation Approaches, Safe and Accurate Landing Capabilities; Mars Ascent, and Innovative Exploration Approaches; and Mars Surface System Capabilities.
Full details and submission instructions can be found on the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s website.