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    2016-2017 Undergraduate Team Space Design Competition

    Manned Mars Orbital Mission Design – Request for Proposal

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    The U.S. has not explored beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO) with humans aboard spacecraft since 1972. However, NASA has exploration plans beyond LEO that include missions to cis-lunar space, Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), the Martian moons, and eventually the surface of Mars. The proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) mission will identify, robotically capture and redirect a multi-ton boulder from the surface a larger NEA to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020’s, returning to the Earth with samples. ARM is the first step beyond LEO into the “Proving Ground” of cislunar space, representing NASA’s efforts to develop essential deep-space capabilities (technologies, systems, and operations) required to safely send humans progressively farther out into the solar system.

    The next destination in the Exploration of the Solar System, in the Earth-independent regime of deep space, would include a manned Mars program. This destination would make a logical manned destination after the significant precursor robotic missions that have been studying the Red Planet since the early 1970’s. Similar to the Apollo 8 mission that orbited the Moon, a similar orbital mission of Mars would be a significant achievement that could lead the follow- on manned missions to the surface of Mars. The orbital manned mission to Mars would test and demonstrate a number of key capabilities directly applicable for future human exploration activities to Mars. These capabilities could include advanced solar electric propulsion, deep-space trajectory and navigation methods, advanced extra-vehicular activity technologies, and some scientific opportunities to study the Mars surface from orbit.

    As an integral part of a well-informed human exploration strategy, orbital manned missions are critical by providing detailed information on the destinations that would be encountered by human missions as well as understanding of the technologies and capabilities that need to be developed before a human landing mission is undertaken. This approach was utilized during the Apollo program to reduce mission risk for the lunar missions of the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

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