The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will hold a workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston to discuss the best landing and working sites for future missions to Mars, which are set to happen in the mid- to late-2030s.

The four-day workshop will include debates about potential Exploration Zones (EZs) divided into different Regions of Interest (ROIs), which should be located 100 kilometers apart from the main landing site. These landing areas should be conducive for the human explorers to live and conduct scientific experiments on the Martian surface.

The results of the proposals and debates will be used to devise a systems plan for the Mars mission. The agency may also add robotic missions to the formulated system to further the investigations for the best landing and working sites.

The process of the scouting may run over time and specific interventions may include determining areas where maximal scientific benefits may be achieved to aid future human space expeditions, detecting areas filled with resources essential for humans to thrive, devising ideas and engineering plans that can help future mission teams to conduct studies in an EZ and, lastly, identifying the major features of the potential EZs that cannot be reviewed by current data.

"This is going to be a hot debate," says Jim Green, head of NASA's Planetary Science Division. According to Green, this upcoming workshop and meeting will be the start of talks regarding the necessary points essential for the architecture and operation of the station to be set up in Mars.

Members of all scientific and spaceflight groups are encouraged to participate. No registration fee is necessary to join in the workshop; however, NASA requires a mandatory registration. Although this is an open invitation, depending on the response the agency may have to narrow the list of participants to individuals who pass proposals for potential EZs and ROIs due to limitations of the venue.

As indicated in the invitation to the Oct. 27-30 workshop, the opinions and views of science and spaceflight groups are essential to determining the best landing and working sites for the people who are about to go to Mars. "This, I think, is an enormous step in defining how we're going to operate on Mars, and what do we need to take with us, because we will have a much better idea of what's there," Green says.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr

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