Mars Exploration Archeology (MEA) is the locating and assessment of surface and sub-surface resources and artifacts using ground-based exploration technologies such as surface rovers and sub-surface robotics. These resources will include those essential to survival such as water, soil ideal for agriculture and mineral deposits useful to producing materials and energy for Mars colonization. Artifacts include geological features that are useful to sub-surface habitation such as lava tubes and caves and possibly to determine the presence of items of anthropological interest. There is commercial value in such surveys to perform resource assays for commercial extraction, processing and sale of the resources.
The basis for MEA is to explore surface and sub-surface areas otherwise unreached by prior and current Mars exploration. Ground-based rovers have covered 3 km^2 of a planet that has a total surface area of ~150 million km^2. Robots equipped to drill and burrow will be key to such exploration.
Extensive surface and sub-surface exploration opens up a body of knowledge useful to Mars Colonization efforts. By locating and assaying essential water, soil resources and mineral deposits for mining, we ensure the self-sufficiency of Mars colonization efforts to produce essential resources for life by water harvesting and agriculture and materials for construction, repair, industry and economic goods. Assessment of sub-surface geological features and soil properties can contribute to civil engineering efforts to develop colony infrastructure for sub-surface habitation such as lava tubes and cave habitats.
Financially, the mission can profit by the commercial sale of such surveys to commercial efforts to assay resources for extraction, processing and sale. This practice has been done profitably on terrestrial resources and the business model can be utilized in space.
Concept of Operations
Mars Archeology will be conducted in six phases; Interest Identification, Remote Assessment, Orbital Assessment, Robotic Surface Assessment, Human Exploration and Resource And Artifact Extraction and/or Excavation.
1. Interest Identification - In preparation of first missions, prior Mars mission data will be studied to evaluate sites of interest for archaeological expedition. This will scope the area of exploration to the areas most conducive to such research and increase the chances of positive results.
2. Remote Assessment - Remote observations of Mars will be taken using ground and space-based remote sensing to give further dimension to the findings of the interest identification research and to verify the conclusions drawn. Future missions to Mars for the project will be validated by the research.
3. Orbital Assessment - A spacecraft carrying an orbiter and robotic rover will orbit Mars on a mission to assay the surface from orbit and send back further sensor data to be analyzed for surface mission assessment. The orbiter will remain on an extended orbital mission to continue to survey the Martian surface from orbit.
4. Robotic Surface Assessment - The robotic rover will be deployed to an area of interest determined by the surface mission assessment from the orbiter. This rover is equipped with a laser drill to perform sub-surface autopsy and sampling and a swarm of deployable all-terrain robots to explore features in rough terrain such as caves and other underground features. These all-terrain robots can be in a slithering or six-legged 'cockroach' mobility configuration to allow them to navigate the rough terrain. Close surveys of surface and sub-surface interests will be conducted and data sent back to be analyzed.
5. Human Exploration - After analyzing the data from close surveys, areas of resource and artifact interest can be assessed for value. A human expedition can be planned and sent. to establish an extraction and/or excavation operation.
6. Resource And Artifact Extraction and/or Excavation - A human expedition for resource and artifact extraction and excavation will be established with future plans and reservations for colonial expansion and regional settlement.
The primary excavation tool for MEA to use on Mars is a advanced Laser Drill. Given the disadvantage of trying to dig with conventional drills that require lubricants for drilling mud and its unavailability on Mars, non-contact drilling given by laser drilling presents an advantage. The petroleum industry currently uses laser drilling with more than a dozen successful test runs in Hawaii. The crust of Mars is mostly made of volcanic basalt and contains elements and compounds such as sodium, potassium and chlorides. This is of similar composition to the lithosphere of Hawaii. Given the success of laser drilling in Hawaii and its similarities to the Martian lithosphere, there is confidence in its use for MEA.
Rover technology developed by The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon will be used to develop surface and subsurface rovers to navigate, explore and map surface and subsurface artifacts. There have been successful demonstrations of such technology at The Robotics Institute for underground rovers. Therefore, the technology can be translated to a Mars rover.
Business & Finance Model for MEA
MEA's business model is based in the commercial sale of resource and colonization site assays and assessments on Mars. As in the above, these resources will be essential to continued and growing colonization and settlement efforts and can create colonial industries and businesses that can produce economically profitable goods for sale. There is also scientific and exploratory value in the information gathered during these explorations that can advance astronomical, space settlement and exploration science and technology.
For an initial partnership, we will approach current incumbents in space exploration and resource assay and extraction. Of those are NASA who have conducted the majority of scientific missions to Mars, Deep Space Industries who have focused on developing technologies to assay the mineral value of celestial bodies for mining, and SpaceX who are launching the Red Dragon to explore Mars. To understand mining science, engineering, technology and methodology, a partnership with resource exploration and mining companies such as Schlumberger and Rio Tinto will be necessary.
License: Open Software License 3.0 (OSL-3.0)
Source Code/Project URL: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By1o1rG0CUZiY2xHNEdHNWstdUE/view?usp=sharing
Mars Exploration Archeology 1-Minute Intro Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35Ibt1TMvYw