Mars Wish List

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The following is a list of items (technologies, designs, datasets, etc.) that would be useful to an endeavor aiming to send humans to Mars -- in particular as part of a minimal initial "toe-hold" outpost, such as that being designed by the Minimalist Human Mars Mission project. The emphasis is on items which could reasonably be developed in the next 5 to 10 years with relatively modest resources and in something approaching a university or other research group setting, with the possibility also for individual contributions.

In general, to be most useful, an item would have seen significant hardware development and on Earth ground testing (where possible). The solution would also be an open implementation, where anyone could pick the design up and use it as is or modify it as appropriate for their needs. In other words, something developed with an approach along the lines of what DevelopSpace espouses -- namely, that technical information be shared in an open source manner to accelerate its spread and make it more valuable to users.

Please comment on and enhance this list, including by linking to activities and resources of relevance to the items here. Hopefully this list will also serve as an inspiration for individuals and groups aiming to hasten the day when humans walk on Mars.

Interplanetary Transportation

Mars Landing Navigation Systems

Automated navigation systems for Mars surface landing, including hazard identification and avoidance. Could include use of pre-emplaced navigation aids for targeted landing relative to existing surface assets.

In-situ produced propellant rocket performance characterization

Characterization of rocket engine performance using propellants produced locally on Mars. Primarily of interest for a round-trip Mars mission, as opposed to a one-way settlement focus. Propellants of interest include ethylene-oxygen (C2H4/LOX) and methane-oxygen (CH4/LOX).

Large-scale Mars aero-entry technology

Development of technologies to enable entry, descent, and landing (EDL) of masses greater than those supported by current robotic Mars EDL technology. Ability to support masses of greater than 10 mt in a single aeroshell.

Deep-space navigation systems

Hardware, software, and complete solutions for deep-space navigation (out to approximately 2 AU). Emphasis on low mass, cost, and power. Would ideally not require investment in significant infrastructure at Earth or Mars.


Mars surface solar power

Automated, large scale (football field+) solar array transport, surface deployment, and maintenance systems

Surface energy storage systems

High energy density electrical power storage systems (aiming in particular towards high energy density relative to Earth imported mass)

Internal combustion engines

Mars surface internal combustion engines (LOX, plus various fuels, e.g., C2H4, CH4, CO, etc), possibly with water exhaust reclamation.

Life Support, Logistics, and Local Resource Utilization

Atmospheric gas collection systems

Mars atmosphere collection systems (at minimum CO2; adding N2 and Ar is useful; H2O depends on energy/mass intensity relative to other options)

Water-ice extraction systems

Mars permafrost mining systems (for varying wt% H2O); note, this is much easier than mining putative lunar ice

High capacity cryocoolers

Good, high capacity Mars surface cryocoolers (options for just soft/medium cryogens (e.g., LOX, CH4, C2H4), or also for hard cryogen (LH2))

Hydrogen transport technology

Earth-Mars hydrogen transport systems (not necessarily as LH2)

Local resource chemical processing

Basic ISRU chemical processing systems (e.g., H2O electrolysis, Sabatier, RWGS, CO2 electrolysis, ethylene production, etc.)

General life support systems

High closure physical-chemical life support systems (e.g., air revitalization, water recycling)

Food storage and transport from Earth

"Food system" for food supplied from Earth. Consider being able to survive on food shipped 5 years ago.

Mars surface food production systems

Means to produce food on the surface of Mars. Could include small scale systems for supplementing food transported from Earth as well as eventual full scale systems that could provide for the majority of the sustenance for the surface population.

Simple in-situ manufacturing systems

Means of making simple spare parts and other critical elements. Initial emphasis on simple machine shop type tools along with stereo lithography techniques.

Simple raw materials production

Production of raw materials without extensive infrastructure needs. Includes plastics such as polyethylene, epoxies, simple ceramics, etc. Would include identification of simple materials whose local production could have benefits sufficient to make-up for the investment in infrastructure.

Outpost and Surface Exploration Systems

Mars surface communication and navigation systems

Enable moderate to long distance overland communication and navigation without the use of an extensive satellite constellation. A variety of approaches exist to accomplish this, and options could be pursued in parallel.

Very high data rate Mars-Earth back-haul comm system

Provides for large quantities of data collected by the systems on Mars to be transferred back to Earth. It may be worth exploring optical in addition to RF data transmission methods.

Good Mars surface EVA suits

Suits that could support human performed exploration and maintenance activities outside of pressurized habitats or rovers. Ideally would be able to support hundreds of EVAs with limited maintenance and need for spare parts.

Data collection, analysis for site selection

This is a precursor activity focused on identifying and assessing potential outpost locations. Includes acquiring additional data to support assessment.

Very long distance surface mobility systems

To maximize exploration effectiveness, and possibly to make possible the use of specific resources, having a method of traversing 100's to 1000's of km across the surface of Mars would be useful. Methods of doing so in an automated fashion, in addition to doing so with personnel involved, would be beneficial.

Solar flare / SPE warning systems

Systems for detection and warning of hazardous solar events. Could include means of forecasting events prior to occurrence, with some level of uncertainty associated with the forecast.