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Center Innovation Fund: ARC CIF

Dragon Deep Drilling Platform for Mars Exploration

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Space X Dragon capsule is a potential Mars lander that can land a significant payload on that planet. We studied a mission concept exploiting this new capability.  The mission used a Dragon lander to conduct Mars deep-drilling investigations. The study goals were: 1. Define science, landing sites, and the best drill design; 2. Develop an implementation plan for a drill payload in the Dragon capsule; 3. Develop a step-by-step operations scenario for drilling on Mars for the Dragon Drill payload.

Drilling on Mars remains a top priority for NASA for two main reasons: (1) The search for life on Mars will require access to the subsurface; and (2) Key resources for human exploration, such as water-ice at mid latitudes, are only accessible in the deep subsurface. Gaining access to the deep subsurface ( > 10 m) would be a game-changing achievement, and would propel the robotic and human exploration of Mars to new levels, allowing the search for extant life and habitable environments, the study of past climate, and mapping of ice resources. However, deep-drilling on Mars requires the development of new and revolutionary concepts and technologies that drastically reduce complexity and cost. A free-flying, deep-drilling platform capable of delivering a heavy engineering and science payload could be the answer. Based on the significant science and development work done at ARC in drill design for Mars, we studied implementing a deep drill in the Space X Dragon capsule. Dragon has a capability of deliver significant payloads (more than 1000 kilograms) to Mars. We defined the science objective for a Dragon Drill mission and identified landing sites on Mars. Based on this, defined the drill and sampling systems by considering: (1) the drilling mechanism based on five proven NASA Ames deep-drill designs, (2) power supply, (3) mechanism to clear cuttings, (4) supporting science payload, (5) supporting engineering payload. We also developed an implementation and configuration plan for placing the drill payload in the Dragon capsule.  Results were reported in C.R. Stoker et al.  ICE DRAGON:  A MISSION TO ADDRESS SCIENCE AND HUMAN EXPLORATION OBJECTIVES ON MARS. Abstract 4176  Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration, Houston TX, June 12-14, 2012.

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.