Indexed on: 03 Mar '06Published on: 03 Mar '06Published in: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
A sample-return mission to the Martian satellites using a con-temporary solar sail for all post-Earth-escape propulsion is proposed. The 0.015 kg/m(2) areal mass-thickness sail unfurls after launch and injection onto a Mars-bound Hohmann-transfer ellipse. Structure and payload increase spacecraft areal mass thickness to 0.028 kg/m(2). During the Mars encounter, the sail functions as a parachute in the outer atmosphere of Mars to accomplish aerocapture. On-board thrusters or the sail maneuver the spacecraft into an orbit with periapsis near Mars and apoapsis near Phobos. The orbit is circularized for Phobos-rendezvous; surface samples are collected. The sail then raises the orbit for Deimos-rendezvous and sample collection. The sail next places the spacecraft on an Earth-bound Hohmann-transfer ellipse. During Earth encounter, the sail accomplishes Earth-aerocapture or partially decelerates the sample container for entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Mission mass budget is about 218 grams and mission duration is less than five years.