The search for past or present life on Mars will require human explorers operating on the surface of the Red Planet. In the past, this has been deemed infeasible due to the enormous cost associated with human exploration architectures proposed by NASA based upon on-orbit assembly techniques. However order of magnitude reductions in cost can be achieved by shunning orbital assembly of megaspacecraft in favor of mission architectures using direct launch of small spacecrafts which utilize Mars atmospheric gases to generate the propellant required for their return flight to Earth. Technology for such in-situ manufacture of propellant has been demonstrated in the lab. A mission plan, known as "Mars Direct" has been devised which takes maximum use of such a "live off the land" strategy to both reduce costs and greatly increase the mobility and effectiveness of human explorers operating on the Mars surface.
In Search for the Extraterrestrial Life
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