Exploration Systems - Projects

HGF-Alliance "Planetary Evolution and Life"

Is there extant or extinct life to be found anywhere else than on Earth? This is the key question to be studied by the Helmholtz-Alliance "Planetary Evolution and Life", a consortium of several research institutes as well as numerous national and international universities, which is lead by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and started in May 2008 to be funded for 5 years of studies. The aim of this extraordinary collaboration of vastly different research areas such as planetary geology, planetary physics, astrobiology and space engineering, is to investigate the potential of a planetary body to develop and sustain life: what are the necessary conditions and how does the presence of life itself influence the formation and the geological development of a terrestrial planet?

It is a general understanding that, in order to answer such questions considering the so called planetary habitability, next to the theoretical research, we need concrete planetary missions, which explore and investigate the planetary bodies within our Solar System from the orbit via Remote Sensing, but also in-situ on the planetary surfaces. The department of Exploration Systems at the Institute of Space Systems investigates, in the framework of the HGF-Alliance, advanced methods, tools and strategies for such exploration missions. Of special interest is the design of advanced mission concepts, which will investigate so far unexplored regions within our Solar System. Such regions, for example the polar regions on Mars, potential subsurface aquifers or the so called gullies, i.e. channels that potentially hint to subsurface liquid water, may have the pre-requisites to bear signs of extant of extinct life. Furthermore, we are also seeking for innovative solutions to explore the subsurface ice layers and oceans on the outer planet moons, for example using melting probes and underwater robotic systems.

URL for this article