So, you want to help bring about a Mars sample return (MSR) mission?
NASA’s issued an RFI “seeking input on a Mars Ascent Vehicle challenge being considered for start in 2014. The challenge focuses on highly reliable and autonomous sample insertion, preparation, launch and deployment for Mars Ascent Vehicle Cache Sequence Demonstration.”
The MSR as currently envisioned involves landing a rover that will assemble a cache of Mars samples, following which “A following mission must land a MAV with relatively close proximity to the cache, grapple the cache, insert the cache into a horizontal MAV, seal and erect the MAV, then finally launch and deploy the sample container into Mars orbit.” All autonomously. The proposed challenge will be to demonstrate technology to do this: “successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude not less than 800m, deploying a sample container with the cache internally sealed and landing the container at less than 6m/s terminal velocity.” Prizes totaling up to $250,000 are proposed.
A possible requirement would be that at least one person on each team be Level 2 certified with NAR or Tripoli.
Interested in commenting? Read the RFI, then write by May 30, 2014 (5:00 EDT) to Dr. Larry Cooper at HQ-STMD-CentennialChallenges@mail.nasa.gov. Use “MAV Challenge” on the subject line.