Systems engineering and design of a Mars Polar Research Base with a human crew

Anne Marlene Rüede, Anton Ivanov, Claudio Leonardi, Tatiana Volkova

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    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Mars Polar Ice caps have been known ever since they were first observed by Cassini. Robotic exploration missions, starting with Mariner 9, have confirmed that they are composed of water ice. During later missions, instruments such as Mars Global Surveyor's MOLA have established a detailed topography and have estimated their depth at about 3 km in the thickest part, while detailed internal structure has been investigated by MARSIS from Mars Express and SHARAD from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This analysis proposes to establish a base near North Polar Layered Deposits to investigate Mars’ climate, hydrological processes and to test for possible traces of life. The objectives of the mission are to sustain a crew for nine months on the surface of Mars, near the North Pole, and to bring the crew back to Earth safely. During the surface mission, the crew will drill and analyze Polar Layered Deposits in ice samples. Furthermore, because the North Polar region provides an easy access to water ice, this area has the potential of sustaining a long-term human presence. The Mars Polar Research mission shall therefore prepare for long term missions, spanning over multiple crew generations. Indeed, longer duration missions and larger crews should be facilitated by this first mission. This paper describes a mission design for a Mars Polar Research base using systems engineering approach and scenario testing. The goal of the work is to establish a strategy composed of various technologies that have been selected accordingly. The requirements related to crew composition, human physiology and psychology adaptation, quality of communication, challenges and prospects of advancing science, as well as optimum habitat design and its usability, are derived and compiled into mass, volume, data and power consumption. A design for the base and mission scenario is also proposed. Given the identified requirements, possible technologies for life support systems, radiation protection, in-situ propellant production, thermal control, air pressure difference compensation and availability of power are discussed and solutions to focus on are recommended. Furthermore, the requirements for a long-term mission preparation are also identified and solutions to include in a first Mars mission with crew are recommended. In conclusion, approximately 110 metric tons and 160 kW are required to enable a Mars Polar mission with a human crew. A two-phase mission is recommended for enabling the testing of key in-situ resource utilization technologies allowing to minimize mass, while ensuring the security of the crew. The use of optimal payload and fairing, a Mars orbit crane system and deployable structures are recommended. Finally, in preparation for a long-term presence of humans on Mars, including in-situ testing of key technologies enabling the production of consumables facilitating autonomy from Earth is suggested. The consumables that have been identified as not being able to be tested before a first crew is sent to Mars are food and energy production. These developments may serve as priorities for current Mars settlement programs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)234-249
    Number of pages16
    JournalActa Astronautica
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


    • Human exploration
    • In-situ resource utilization
    • Mars
    • Mission architecture
    • Polar layered deposits
    • Research base


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