Executive Summary

What role should the scientific community play if a political decision is made to initiate a program for the human exploration of the Moon and Mars? As the first phase of its study to answer this question, the Committee on Human Exploration (CHEX) found that certain critical scientific information is needed before humans can safely return to the Moon for extended periods and, eventually, undertake voyages to Mars.1, In addition to the scientific challenges of ensuring human survival in space, CHEX found that a Moon/Mars program offers “opportunities for the participation of the scientific community.”2, What are these opportunities? What, if any, scientific research is “enabled” by the existence of a program of human exploration of the Moon and Mars? Does the technology developed for a Moon/Mars program open new avenues for scientific research?

In attempting to answer these questions, CHEX reached the following conclusions:

  1. Given that a program of human exploration is undertaken primarily for reasons other than scientific research, humans can make significant contributions to scientific activities through their ability to conduct scientific field work and by using their capabilities to emplace and attend scientific facilities on planetary bodies.

  2. The fractional gravity environment of the Moon and Mars and of space vehicles in transit to and from Mars offers a unique opportunity to study the effects of prolonged exposure to fractional gravity levels on living



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Scientific Opportunities in the Human Exploration of Space Executive Summary What role should the scientific community play if a political decision is made to initiate a program for the human exploration of the Moon and Mars? As the first phase of its study to answer this question, the Committee on Human Exploration (CHEX) found that certain critical scientific information is needed before humans can safely return to the Moon for extended periods and, eventually, undertake voyages to Mars.1, In addition to the scientific challenges of ensuring human survival in space, CHEX found that a Moon/Mars program offers “opportunities for the participation of the scientific community.”2, What are these opportunities? What, if any, scientific research is “enabled” by the existence of a program of human exploration of the Moon and Mars? Does the technology developed for a Moon/Mars program open new avenues for scientific research? In attempting to answer these questions, CHEX reached the following conclusions: Given that a program of human exploration is undertaken primarily for reasons other than scientific research, humans can make significant contributions to scientific activities through their ability to conduct scientific field work and by using their capabilities to emplace and attend scientific facilities on planetary bodies. The fractional gravity environment of the Moon and Mars and of space vehicles in transit to and from Mars offers a unique opportunity to study the effects of prolonged exposure to fractional gravity levels on living

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Scientific Opportunities in the Human Exploration of Space systems. Similarly, space missions lasting as long as 2 to 3 years will provide an unusual opportunity to study human behavior under uniquely stressful conditions (confinement with no immediate possibility of escape). The committee emphasizes, however, that both of these possibilities are at this time not inherently of high scientific priority in the absence of a program of human exploration. There will be significant limitations on humans performing scientific activities because of safety concerns and the restrictions on mobility and manipulation imposed by the design of current spacesuits. Technology development is required to improve spacesuits, biomedical diagnostic procedures, life support systems (both open and closed), and tools. With the robotic technology expected to be utilized over the next few decades, using robots to perform certain scientific activities (e.g., field work) on extraterrestrial planetary surfaces will not be a realistic alternative to having humans on site. Technology development is required to improve both the capability of robotic field aids and the ability to control them remotely. The next steps in the exploration of Mars should be carried out by robotic spacecraft controlled from Earth. As the program evolves to include human exploration, the optimal mix of human and robotic activities is likely to include proximate human control of robots with a shorter time delay than can be achieved from Earth. Space scientists in non-planetary science disciplines will be in the best position to take advantage of the scientific opportunities enabled by a Moon/Mars program if there is a steady, phased program of scientific projects on Earth and in Earth orbit. Astronauts with a high level of relevant scientific knowledge and experience must be included in Moon/Mars missions. Crew training and exploration planning should be designed to take advantage of human initiative, flexibility, adaptability, and deductive and inductive reasoning abilities. Scientists must be involved in every stage of a Moon/Mars program from conception to execution to ensure that quality science is accomplished, the science supported best takes advantage of human presence, and resources available to the whole of space science are competitively allocated. REFERENCES 1. Space Studies Board, Scientific Prerequisites for the Human Exploration of Space, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1993. 2. Space Studies Board, Scientific Prerequisites for the Human Exploration of Space, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1993, page 46.