top of page
Columbia Hills_panorama_crop_edited.jpg


2023 Team Meeting Summary

Sept 4-6, 2023 – In-person meeting of the LifeSpringsMars team at University of New South Wales Sydney.

Members of the LifeSpringsMars team from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the United States were joined by representatives from the Australian, Japanese, and European space agencies, members from CSIRO, the AROSE consortium, and Fugro for a three-day meeting at UNSW’s Kensington campus. The meeting was opened by UNSW’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research Prof Dane McCamey, who welcomed the delegates and espoused the benefits of our bold, ambitious program as a way of bringing together the research and industry sectors to showcase Australia’s technological and project management abilities.

The program re-emphasized the science case for a return to Columbia Hills to collect samples of the opaline silica digitate nodules, with talks by Dr. Steve Ruff (Arizona State University), Prof Kathleen Campbell (U. Auckland), Prof. Michael Rowe (U. Auckland) and Dr Andrew Ang (Swinburne University).

Further developments on mission architecture were presented by Prof. Naoya Ozaki (JAXA), Risa Ito (Keio University), and Dr Takao Maeda (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology).

Dr Masaki Fujimoto, Deputy Director General of ISAS in Japan and JAXA presented on JAXA’s Moon to Mars mission, and Dr Jorge Vago, Head of the ExoMars mission for the European Space Agency, presented an overview of ESA’s Mars program. CSIRO’s Dr Jonathan Ralston and Dr Nick Carter presented on Australia’s capabilities in space, Dr Newton Campbell (Director of Space Operations for Space and Earth) spoke about the AROSE consortium’s lunar regolith sampling rover program, followed by Dr Sidd Pandey of Fugro, who spoke about his company’s capabilities and scope for collaboration with India.

Next steps for the mission were discussed in two breakout sessions. Key steps were to further solidify the science case, with the added note of the importance to “be merciless with simplicity” and to focus on the primary mission goal of retrieving the opaline silica samples for return to Earth. Any additional sampling was seen to unnecessarily complicate the mission, which is already complicated enough in terms of developing several new technologies required for sample return.

Further development of the mission architecture was also required over the next 6 months-1 year, including a concurrent design facility to evaluate all of the steps and components of the mission.

ESA expressed serious interest in the program and have included LifeSpringsMars in their planning for Mars exploration as the follow-on from Mars Sample Return of the Perseverance Rover sample suite.

JAXA’s ambitions for Mars were  for a ”Just-OK” mission to Mars, utilising a light-and-nimble architecture in collaboration with smaller space-faring nations, all of which matches well with the objectives of LifeSpringsMars.

ESA has expressed strong interest in collaborating with JAXA and Australia, and we are continuing to help strengthen ties between these three agencies – we hope the LifeSpringsMars provides the opportunity for this collaboration to happen.

bottom of page