March 1-8, 2014
In order to reduce the knowledge gap associated with long-duration human exploration of Mars, a manned precursor mission destined for one of the Martian moons is currently considered a feasible option for testing and demonstrating critical technologies within the Martian system. The 2013 Caltech Space Challenge, a student mission design competition held at the California Institute of Technology, addressed the interest in human precursor missions. Two teams of 16 students, with varying backgrounds and nationalities, were allocated five days to design a mission to land at least one human on a Martian moon and return them, along with a sample, safely to Earth with a launch date no later than January 1, 2041. This paper provides an overview of Technology Advancing Phobos Exploration and Return (TAPER-1), the manned Phobos sample return mission devised by Team Explorer. As the first manned mission to the Martian system, TAPER-1 is designed as an opposition class mission to Phobos, carrying four astronauts, with a launch date in April 2033, and a nominal time of flight of 456 days. In addition, this paper demonstrates the feasibility and value of exposing students to the process of rapid mission design.