Final UND Space Studies Colloquium on Mars exploration is May 5

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


Presenter David Willson is well known NASA expert

The Spring 2014 University of North Dakota Space StudiesColloquium Series focuses on "Human Flyby Missions to Mars" and will feature several leading experts in the field.

The final presentation in this series is May 5will feature David Willson, research engineer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center

Topic: Mars Exploration and Sample Return using Dragon: A New low cost paradigm for Mars science missions

When: 4 p.m., Monday, May 5

Where: Ryan Hall, Room 111

About the Topic:

A Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission is the highest priority Mars science mission for the next decade (Decadal Survey of Planetary Science). During this Colloquium talk the feasibility of reducing mission cost by adopting the emerging commercial capabilities, in particular the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher that can deliver an un-manned Dragon crew capsule to Mars will be presented. The Dragon capsule can be modified to land on Mars with all the hardware needed to return samples to Earth, including a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) and sample collection and storage hardware.

About the Speaker: David Willson is a research and development mechanical engineer at the NASA Ames Research Center working on Mars exploration technologies for spacecraft sample handling equipment, subsurface drilling and life search instruments.

Willson has been involved lately in three major projects. The first is the concept development of a Mars sample return mission using the SpaceX Dragon capsule, in the areas of sample retrieval and handling, structural design, the Earth return vehicle design, and the in-situ resource utilization concept design version. The second project is building a subcritical water organics extractor to provide extract for extant and extinct life detection instruments, and the third project is the development of an ice/water subsurface drill detection instrument for Mars or moon applications.

Colloquium presentations will be added to the colloquium website after the live event for later viewing.