ExoLance

Are you ready to answer the question, are we alone in the universe? ExoLance is.
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Chris Carberry
Technology
Beverly, Massachusetts
United States
8 Team Members


Welcome to ExoLance an Explore Mars Inc. Project

a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) Organization; All contributions are tax deductible


Is there life on Mars?

We don't know, but we do know that Mars has all the elements required for life, and that all the geophysical and geochemical evidence suggests that Mars could have supported life -- and may still. Explore Mars, Inc. has a new mission concept designed to answer that question.  It is called ExoLance, and it is engineered to look below the surface of Mars for current microbial life.

Why is this mission needed?

Over the past few decades, missions have been sent to Mars by space programs from around the world.  Some are orbiters, some are landers, and some are rovers. From the findings of those missions, an intriguing body of evidence has been building indicating that if microbial life presently exists, it exists below the surface of Mars.  While current NASA missions are looking for evidence of past life, no NASA mission is planned to look for current life.  We believe this is a mistake. To find life on Mars, we actually need to look for life on Mars.


ExoLance Concept

Explore Mars has devised a simple system capable of being delivered to the Martian surface to detect microorganisms living on or under the surface. 

ExoLance leverages a delivery system that was originally designed for military purposes.  As each small, lightweight penetrator probe ("arrow") impacts the surface, it leaves behind a radio transmitter at the surface to communicate with an orbiter, and then kinetically burrows to emplace a life-detection experiment one to two meters below the surface.  ExoLance combines the experiments of the 1970s Viking landers and the Curiosity rover with bunker-busting weapons technology.

ExoLance: Preliminary Modeling for Penetration Effectiveness

Update: 1 meter depth achieved

View penetrator modeling 1 meter here

Our investigation of Mars has only scratched the surface.  Most of our data comes from orbiting satellites. The Viking and Phoenix missions were only able to dig several centimeters into loose sand but neither could penetrate the hard rocks or icy material. The MER rovers had a tool that could scratch rocks, but that was it. Curiosity is the first mission to be able to drill into hard rock and sediment, but even it can only go a few centimeters deep. 

The Mars underground remains an unexplored region.  The shallowness of our present missions to Mars are unfortunate because the underground of Mars is the best place to search for preserved organic remains of past life. Consolidated mudstones such as those found by Curiosity at Yellowknife Bay in Gale Crater are ideal targets to search for preserved organics. However, radiation and oxidation can easily destroy organics near the surface. The deeper we can go into the material, the more likely we are to find preserved organics.  Sediments such as the Yellowknife Bay mudstones are hard - not as hard as the volcanic rocks - but much harder than the loose soil Viking and Phoenix dug through. Significant force, or drilling energy, is needed to penetrate those mudstones requiring either drills or penetrators like ExoLance.

Since Curiosity drilled a few centimeters into the Yellowknife Bay mudstone, a logical next goal would be to go an order of magnitude deeper. Reaching a depth of 1 meter would bring us well beyond that. It would be the first step in the subsurface exploration of Mars.

Once we have achieved the ability to reach 1 meter, and it has been tried and tested, we can use it many places on Mars and begin the systematic search of the Mars’ underground for signs of life.

By Dr. Christopher P. McKay, Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center

Preliminary Modeling

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been performing modeling of the Mars penetrators under internal funding as in-kind support for the ExoLance project.  This work uses an industry standard simulation known as hydrocode modeling.  In the hydrocode model, a grid is generated to represent the material that the penetrator is impacting and the model is run to determine the depth of penetration for various parameters such as penetrator mass, shape, initial velocity at impact and angle of entry.  In order to use the hydrocode model as a design tool, it is first necessary to calibrate the model against a known test result.  Since the DS-2 project did extensive testing in the 1990’s on simulated Martian soils, we elected to use it as our calibration case.

   Figure 1                                                                                 Figure 2     

                                                Figure 1 shows the DS-2 penetrator as configured for the tests.

Figure 2 shows the test set-up including the gas gun used to accelerate the penetrator to a velocity of 200 m/s at impact.

The test results for a 90 degree impact (normal to the surface) from test firing shot number 9 were as follows:

  • Shot #9 Target:  clay
  • Forebody penetration (m)  0.38
  • Aftbody penetration (m)  0.2
  • Impact speed (m/s)  172
  • Incidence (deg) 90

The first movie shows the results of the preliminary hydrocode modeling.  After selecting a soil composition that matched the clay type soil used in the test, the model was run with a DS-2 penetrator design and the grid mesh was adjusted until the results shown below were achieved.

90 Degree Simulation

This result shows the penetrator entering and generating a small spray of ejecta as it burrows down past 10 cm.  At approximately 0.9 milliseconds, as the penetrator is passing through 10 cm, the ejecta pattern resembles a classic cratering process with a small cone forming on the surface.  Of course, in the actual impact, the aftbody will be interacting with this region.  One millisecond later the tunnel has reached 20 cm depth and the tunnel is now showing signs of tapering on the walls.  The penetrator comes to rest at approximately 39 cm depth in approximately 10 milliseconds.  This compares very favorably with the measured DS-2 results shown above.

70 Degree Simulation

A second case was run to document the sensitivity to off-nominal entrance angles.  In this case, the penetrator enters at a 70 degree angle relative to the surface.  As you can see from the movie, the penetration depth is reduced to approximately 25 cm.  As is evident from the simulation, the penetrator body “slides” a little sideways into the soil, causing the tunnel to be wider and also reducing the ultimate depth.


Images created for Explore Mars by Bryan Versteeg

The system involves a metabolic test that clearly distinguishes non-living chemistry from the chemistry produced by the metabolism of living microorganisms .  What makes this experiment even more intriguing is that if it detects life, it may also be able to determine whether that life is related to life on Earth or is a new strain of life - a separate "genesis." 

Further reading for the critically discerning mind:






      ExoLance Development & Testing 

      Within 12 -14 months of completing our $250,000 funding campaign, we will build ExoLance prototypes and test them at a test range in the New Mexico desert.  Many areas of the Mojave Desert feature Mars-like characteristics.  There, we will be able to test both the delivery system (from an aircraft) as well as the ground penetrating arrows.  These tests will verify the average depth of penetration as well as testing the necessary parameters for a viable life detection experiment within the arrows. 

      Once the concept is sufficiently tested and we have proven the viability of the mission concept, we will approach NASA, other space agencies, and potential commercial providers to carry ExoLance on one or more future Mars missions.



      Technical Team Bios


      Doug McCuistion

      Mr. McCuistion has more than 35 years’ experience in the aerospace industry, culminating as the Director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program where his responsibilities encompassed all aspects of NASA’s robotic exploration of Mars, including the ground-breaking landing of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover on Mars in August 2012. He has held positions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as well as NASA Headquarters in management and engineering positions on missions including the Geosynchronous Operations Environmental Satellite (GOES), Landsat, Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), and other various earth and Mars missions.

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      Joe Cassady

      Joe Cassady is a graduate of Purdue University where he majored in Aeronautics and Astronautics. He received a Bachelors Degree in 1981 and a Masters Degree in 1983. His course of study for the Masters Degree emphasized Electric Propulsion and Orbital Mechanics. While pursuing his Master’s Degree, Joe worked as a Researcher at the Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at Edwards AFB. 

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      Dr. Gilbert Levin

      Gilbert V. Levin is Adjunct Professor, Beyond Center, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.  Founder of Spherix Inc. (NASDAQ SPEX) in DC, in 1967, he was CEO, President and Chair, retiring in 2008.  From 1948 to 1952, Levin served successively as public health engineer in the health departments of Maryland, California and the District of Columbia. 

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      Dr. Douglas Gage


      Doug Gage is an independent technology consultant based in Arlington, VA. He received his B.S. from Caltech and his Ph.D. from Arizona State University, both in Physics. After working for many years for the Navy in San Diego, principally in robotics and computer and local area networking, he moved to DARPA, where he served as a Program Manager in the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) from 2000 to 2004. 

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      View other Critical Team Member's Bios and Information


      Risks and Consequences

      Exolance is a technical development activity, and any significant technical development carries technical, schedule, and budget risks.  Here are a few of the issues we may encounter:
      • The volume of the selected design may not accommodate the payload (comm, science, power sys, etc.)
      • The batteries may not provide power for long enough to meet all science needs.
      • We might not penetrate as deeply as we want.  (Or we might penetrate too deep!)
      • We might see higher g-loads than expected.
      • The tether may not deploy properly or it may break.

      An iteration of the design should be able to mitigate each of these risks.  We are very confident, because Aerojet Rocketdyne has the experience and tools to develop and validate a suitable penetrator design, and JPL's previous work on the Deep Space 2 project provides a firm basis for dealing with the full spectrum of issues likely to be encountered.


      The Impact 

        ExoLance will literally and figuratively have an "impact."  When the ExoLance penetrators arrive at the surface, they will reach depths on Mars that have never been achieved before. Most experts agree, if there is life on Mars, it will reside below the surface.  If this system works, these penetrators could also carry other science payloads to Mars and the technology could be adapted for scientific purposes here on Earth. One could argue that discovering life on another planet could be the greatest impact of any fundraising campaign ever attempted - It would be one of the greatest discoveries in the history of humanity.

        Explore Mars is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has had a tremendous impact in a relatively small amount of time. The organization runs innovative STEM education programs, conferences and workshops, policy work, and has now launched new technical projects.   Since Explore Mars was founded in 2010, it has run programs such as the Humans to Mars Summit which is now considered the preeminent conference advocating human exploration of Mars.  In line with Explore Mars' mission it has also run extremely effective programs such as the Get Curious campaign, Mars Generation Survey, Teaching Mars workshops and Mars Education Challenge, ISS and Mars Conferences, Affording Mars Workshops, and many others.  In 2014, Explore Mars has launched its first technical projects with the Time Capsule to Mars project and ExoLance.


        Contingencies & Stretch Goals

        In the Event we do not meet our expected goal or exceed it, this is our determined course of actions for such circumstances
        $50,000: ExoLance design

        $100,000-150,000: Build penetrators

        $250,000:  Build and test penetrator arrows - This includes computer modeling, penetrator and communications development, impact forces/factors, and initial payload configuration.

        $350,000:  Production of a high end film to document the project but also promote the value of search for life on Mars and sending human crews to Mars.

        $500,000: Second round of EXOLANCE testing and development. This will include air drops in various analog environments.

        $750,000: aggressively develop the science payload. Begin publishing papers in peer reviewed journals.

        $1 Million+: At the $1 million level, we hope to achieve a Technology Readiness Level of 4 – 5. At under $10 million, Explore Mars will flight qualify the entire system.


        Sponsors and Supporters


        Special thanks to the crew at Salem Access Television 

        Sal Russo, Patrick Kennedy, 

        & Steve Spencer.


        Explore Mars Inc. welcomes any questions you may have regarding any aspect of this campaign or the ExoLance Mission. Please email all inquiries to 

        indiegogo@exploremars.org 

        we will respond promptly.


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        Find This Campaign On
        $16,477USD
        raised by 168 people in 2 months
        7% funded
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        Verified Nonprofit
        $250,000 USD goal
        Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
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        This campaign ended on September 29, 2014
        Select a Perk
        • $10USD
          ExoLance Mission Sticker

          ExoLance Mission “Got Life” Logo Sticker designed specifically for this campaign. Place on your car, bike, board or other preferred mode of transportation and let the world know YOU backed history in the making!

          11 out of 5000 claimed
          Estimated delivery: November 2014
        • $25USD
          ExoLance Mission Patch

          Remember those cool patches the astronauts used to wear? Own a piece of this historical mission YOU made happen with an ExoLance Mission patch Commissioned by Explore Mars for the ExoLance Mission. See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests.

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        • $50USD
          ExoLance Mission Poster

          Supporters at this level will receive a limited print run of the ExoLance Mission poster designed specifically for this campaign. Poster dimensions: 18” x 24” (46cm x 61cm) See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $10 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

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        • $75USD
          ExoLance Mission Hat

          Supporters at this level will receive an ExoLance mission hat. Hats are adjustable for desired fit See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $10 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

          5 out of 4992 claimed
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        • $100USD
          Terraform Mars Mug

          Watch Mars transform into a lush tropical paradise right before your very eyes each morning with this temperature sensitive color changing mug. Perfect for your favorite morning eye opener! See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $10 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

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        • $100USD
          1Year of the Planetary Society

          You'll get quarterly magazine, and hear directly from the scientists and engineers in the field bringing their passion for exploration to you through in-depth articles and awe-inspiring images. See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. Confirmation will be delivered via email, additional information may be required. Shipping applies alternately

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        • $150USD
          Signed ExoLance Mission Poster

          Supporters at this level will receive a limited edition poster of the ExoLance mission signed by the ExoLance mission team. Supporters will also receive an ExoLance mission patch. See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $10 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

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        • $200USD
          ExoLance Mission Polo Shirt

          Supporters at this level will receive an ExoLance Mission polo shirt & an ExoLance Mission patch. Sizes are SM, M, L, and XL See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $15 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

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        • $400USD
          Combo: Poster, Hat, Polo Shirt

          Supporters at this level will receive an ExoLance mission hat, polo shirt, and poster. Supporters will also receive an ExoLance mission patch. Shirt sizes are SM, M, L, and XL See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $15 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

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        • $500USD
          Admission to H2M 2015

          Supporters of this level will get free admission to the Humans to Mars Summit 2015 in Washington, DC on May 5-7, 2015. Supporters will also receive an ExoLance mission patch. See something else you like? Perks are optional and can be cumulative, pick item/items equal to the value of your contribution. Email perks@exploremars.org for further details and requests. Terms and Conditions apply. Contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details. Confirmation deliverd via email

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          Estimated delivery: May 2015
        • $500USD
          Autographed Mars Up Close

          Take a brilliantly crafted tour through our enduring love affair of the RED planet with this autographed edition by award winning National Geographic writer Marc Kauffman. Signed by Marc Kauffman himself this is an amazing gift and must have for any avid fan of Mars. *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $20 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska

          1 out of 97 claimed
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        • $1,000USD
          Replica ExoLance Arrows

          Supporters at this level will receive a model of the ExoLance penetrator "Arrows." Supporters will also receive an ExoLance mission patch as well as an ExoLance hat or polo shirt Shirt sizes SM, M, L, XL *Free shipping within the domestic United States, add $25 for International shipping, Hawaii, and Alaska Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

          0 out of 100 claimed
        • $2,500USD
          Lunch with The ExoLance Team

          Enjoy an elegant lunch with the lead team members of ExoLance, including Dr. Gil Levin, Joe Cassady, and other members of our international science team. Supporters will also enjoy a presentation and receive an ExoLance mission patch as well as ExoLance gear (hat and polo shirt). Tangible items delivered at time of event, Confirmation delivered via email. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

          0 out of 10 claimed
        • $3,500USD
          Cave Analog Tour w/Dr. Boston

          Supporters at this level will receive a Mars cave analog tour by one of the world's best known Cave Microbiologists, Dr. Penelope Boston. Supporters will also receive an ExoLance mission patch as well as ExoLance gear (hat and polo shirt). Tangible items delivered at time of event, Confirmation delivered via email. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

          0 out of 10 claimed
        • $3,500USD
          Desert Analog Expedition

          Supporters at this level will participate in a research Desert Analog Expedition lead by the Astrobiology experts on our science team . Supporters will also receive an ExoLance mission patch as well as ExoLance gear (hat and polo shirt). Tangible items delivered at time of event, Confirmation delivered via email. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

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        • $3,500USD
          Rocket Launch Viewing

          Contributors at this level will receive a VIP launch experience at an upcoming NASA launch from either the Kennedy Space Center in Florida or the Wallops Flight Center in Virginia. The package will include access to the VIP viewing area, along with expert commentary on the pre-launch activities and the mission. Launch will be followed up by dinner with the expert hosts. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at info@exploremars.org for further details.

          1 out of 20 claimed
        • $5,000USD
          ExoLance Test Viewing

          This package includes a review of the ExoLance design concept in a pre-test briefing, exclusive access to the test site during the high velocity gas gun impact testing of the penetrator, and coffee and donuts with the test crew and engineers. Post test we will celebrate with dinner and champagne. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

          0 out of 10 claimed
        • $10,000USD
          Arrow Naming Rights

          Supporters at this level will be allowed to name the Mars Arrows (penetrators) on the test missions. These names will be acknowledged in official reports and other outreach materials. Supporters at this level will also receive ExoLance gear (mission patch, hat, polo shirt). Tangible items delivered at time of event, Confirmation delivered via email. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

          0 out of 10 claimed
        • $15,000USD
          David McKay Circle

          Receive ExoLance gear (mission patch, hat, polo short) and choose between any two (2) of the other incentives listed. All supporters at this level will have their names laser engraved on the ExoLance test articles and will receive a custom ExoLance model with their names. Tangible items delivered at time of event, Confirmation delivered via email. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at info@exploremars.org for further details.

          0 out of 8 claimed
          Estimated delivery: November 2014
        • $20,000USD
          Ray Bradbury Circle

          Be acknowledged as partner of ExoLance with names listed alongside Explore Mars. Also receive any ExoLance gear produced and choose any five (5) of the incentives offered. In addition, your name will be laser engraved on all ExoLance test articles and receive a custom ExoLance model. Tangible items delivered at time of event, Confirmation delivered via email. Terms and Conditions apply. Please contact Explore Mars Inc. at perks@exploremars.org for further details.

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