Mars Surface

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DevelopSpace is kicking-off a project focused on advancing the state of the art of Mars surface systems. Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved.

This project is intended to develop capabilities needed for human activities on the surface of Mars, including as related to sustaining life, expanding available infrastructure, and supporting transportation systems. In practice, this is envisioned as being achieved through various affiliated (in some cases loosely, in others more strongly) projects working in detail on specific technologies or systems. The project will be a follow-on of DevelopSpace's Minimalist Mars Mission design (MinMars) project.

Surface System Development

Developing surface systems has a relatively low barrier to entry, in comparison to in-space elements, in the sense that incremental steps can be taken on Earth with limited resources that can have a meaningful impact on the ability of people to eventually operate on Mars. By working on these areas now, the uncertainty associated with what will be necessary on the surface will be decreased, making any eventual human missions to Mars more readily attained.

The design and development of transportation elements is expected to involve very large resource levels (at minimum hundreds of millions of dollars and many years effort) and to be much more highly integrated, where architectural elements must be developed in concert so as to be able to arrive at a coherent end. Surface capabilities in contrast can be developed at sub-scale or less integrated levels with less impact on the ability of the end product to perform appropriately once scaled up and integrated into an overall system. Surface systems can also more readily employ a variety of means of solving a particular problem (e.g., various methods of resource acquisition), where they can be employed operationally with less impact than in a highly integrated space transportation system.

By employing an open development approach for these systems, we are able both to benefit from contributions from a variety of sources and to provide relevant information for those who will eventually develop and manufacture these systems for use on Mars. Having multiple sources of these systems and for the details of their designs to be well understood may also have significant benefits for any eventual user on Mars, where the vitality and even survival of a community may be reliant upon the systems’ availability and successful operation.

In undertaking developments today, it is important to recognize that the specific implementation under immediate development is unlikely to be the final design by the time people get to Mars. As such, it is essential to capture the architectural options considered and the relevant scaling relationships of a system, in order to maximize the value it will provide during the detailed design and implementation of these capabilities in the future.


Project Areas

In many areas, much work has already been done across a variety of organizations to investigate and develop systems relevant to human activities on Mars. A key element of this project will be to research such existing work and to the extent possible summarize results and areas for further investigation. We are also very open to working with existing groups in encouraging their developing Mars surface systems in an open manner and integrating their activities into the overall objectives of this project.

Some examples (by no means comprehensive) of surface systems to include in the project follow:

  • Surface power capabilities, including based on imported systems and systems primarily derived from local resources
  • Resource characterization (e.g., where is the water and in what form)
  • Environmental characterization (e.g., dust, wind, atmospheric density)
  • Initial resource acquisition, e.g., carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, water, bulk regolith
  • Life support consumables production
  • Return propellant production
  • Water processing and recycling
  • Locally derived habitation options
  • Local food production

The Mars Wish List page includes a number of areas that could be of relevance to this project. The MinMars project also provides some context for a particular application of these capabilities, however it is by no means the only use case that is considered for this project.

Get Involved

Participation in this project can take many forms, ranging from helping support a particular project area to spear-heading the development and testing of a major technological capability. Opportunities for all forms of engineering expertise are available, as are various scientific, business, and marketing. Aside from the supporting the specific technical disciplines, we are looking for people to assist with web development, graphics design, and general organizational support. No matter what your background or experience, we would be happy to hear from you and to discuss ways in which you could contribute and to gain relevant experience as you go. For more information, please email us.