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Purdue Mission Concept Funded By NASA: Chariot to the Moons of Mars

Purdue Mission Concept Funded By NASA: Chariot to the Moons of Mars

Author: David Spencer
Event Date: March 28, 2017
Chariot to the Moons of Mars
Chariot to the Moons of Mars will determine the origin of Phobos and Deimos
NASA has selected the Purdue University mission concept "Chariot to the Moons of Mars" for study through the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies program.

The six-month concept study will establish an early design for a small satellite mission to determine the origins of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.  There are competing theories for the formation of the moons, including the possibility that they are captured asteroids, formed from material ejected from the surface of Mars by an impact event, or formed in the same era as Mars from similar material.  The mission concept study is led by Principal Investigator David Minton, within the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

The proposed mission concept will fly a 12-unit CubeSat (24 Kg, 23 x 24 x 36 cm) to Mars and use the atmosphere of Mars to slow the trajectory, capturing into orbit.  This technique, called aerocapture, has not yet been demonstrated in space flight, and is an important technology advancement needed for future human exploration of Mars.  Once in Mars orbit, Chariot will use electric propulsion to conduct a remote sensing survey of Phobos and Deimos over one Martian year (687 Earth days).

Chariot to the Moons of Mars is a collaboration between Purdue University, Arizona State University, and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc.  Students in the Purdue University Space Flight Projects Laboratory will support the study.