Implications of Special Regions to Conducting Human Activities on Mars

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Nadine G Barlow1, John D Rummel2, David W Beaty3, Melissa A. Jones3 and Victoria Hipkin4, (1)Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, United States, (2)East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, United States, (3)Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (4)Canadian Space Agency, Saint-Hubert, QC, Canada
A MEPAG Science Analysis Group (SAG) has undertaken an analysis of Special Regions (SR) on Mars—regions where indigenous martian life could exist or where Earth microbes, if introduced, could survive and reproduce. The SR-SAG has considered the impact of SR on future human activities on the martian surface. Human exploration requires access to in-situ resources, some of which may be found in SR. Water and oxygen for ISRU are found in the atmosphere, surface/near-surface ice, hydrated minerals, and perchlorates. Water ice is most abundant at latitudes poleward of ~60 degrees, but polar darkness, cold temperatures, and CO2 degassing present hazards to human operations in these regions. Accessible water is more limited toward the equator, though temperature and solar energy conditions become more favorable. The possible presence of liquid water in Recurring Slope Lineae and active gullies leads to their treatment as SR. Fuel for surface operations and propellants for crew ascent could be manufactured from the martian atmosphere and surface materials, but dust in the atmosphere may clog ISRU equipment and perchlorate is toxic to humans. Power may be produced from solar or nuclear energy. Reliance on solar energy limits operations to the equatorial zone where easily accessible ice resources are limited. Nuclear power allows surface operations at a range of latitudes, but waste heat could convert some non-SR into SR. Radiation shielding is necessary for long-term human operations on Mars and could be obtained by deposition of regolith or by water storage in tanks or as ice around habitats, or the use of underground habitats. SR-SAG recognizes that it will be impossible for all human-associated processes and operations to be conducted within entirely closed systems. Protocols need to be established so (1) human missions to Mars will not contaminate SR nor be contaminated by materials from them, and (2) human activities on Mars will avoid converting areas into SR.