Systems Engineering Seminar

Lunar Operations and Technologies to Enable Human Exploration of Mars: Findings from the Sixth Workshop on Achieving Mars Exploration

Presented by:
Harley Thronson (NASA GSFC-660), Richard (Rick) Davis (NASA HQ SMD), & Steve Mackwell (AIP)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Building 3 Auditorium

Photo of AM VI Group


What is the most effective way to use the Moon to enable subsequent human missions to Mars? Last August, several dozen subject matter experts on lunar and martian exploration, science, operations, and key technologies assembled at The George Washington University to critically assess how operations, technologies, and facilities for the Moon and its vicinity might feed forward to human missions to the martian surface before the end of the 2030s. This workshop was the sixth in the series of community workshops on Achieving, Affording, and Sustaining Human Exploration of Mars (a/k/a, AM workshops) hosted since 2013 by Explore Mars, Inc. and the American Astronautical Society. We will present the findings and observations that began at AMVI and which are critical to creating consensus on a sustainable and ambitious international, multi-destination human space exploration strategy for the next several decades. The reports from this workshop are available at Explore Mars.


Dr. Harley Thronson ( is currently Senior Scientist for Advanced Astrophysics Mission Concepts at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously, while working at NASA Headquarters, he was the program scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope among others. He was the first Astrobiology Program Scientist and is co-chair of the weekly Future In-Space Operations (FISO) seminars. For a decade, he has chaired the planning team for the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium. In 2013, he co-founded the annual "Achieving, Affording, and Sustaining Human Exploration of Mars" community workshops. He has published more than 120 research papers and edited eleven books. He is recipient of a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and an Exceptional Achievement Medal. As a co-author of the AURA "HST & Beyond Committee" report, he shared the American Astronautical Society's Carl Sagan Award for group achievement in 2017. Dr. Thronson received his Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1978 from the University of Chicago and has been a faculty member and on the senior staff of the Universities of Arizona and Wyoming, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.

Richard (Rick) McGuire Davis
Currently works at NASA Headquarters as the Assistant Director for Science and Exploration in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). In this capacity, does extensive integration work between SMD and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) on deep space policy, including Mars exploration policy. Co-leads a joint SMD-HEOMD study to begin the process of identifying potential human landing sites on Mars, using current reconnaissance assets at Mars. A second goal of the effort is to define future reconnaissance needs which will be required to support human surface operations on the planet. Prior to this, worked in the Office of the Administrator on Mars policy as well as efforts to streamline the way the NASA partners with other organizations.

Before being assigned to Headquarters, worked at the Johnson Space Center and held numerous positions in the Flight Operations Directorate. Has extensive international experience with the International Space Station (ISS). Chaired multiple international panels/working groups.

Was selected as a Space Station Capsule Communicator or CAPCOM in 2003. In that capacity, served as the primary interface between Mission Control and the crews onboard the ISS. Was the Lead CAPCOM for the Expedition 13 mission and Space Shuttle Mission, STS 119.

Led the International Crew Training Integration Group. Group was responsible for integrating the content of ISS crew training with the International Partners, as well as providing on-orbit training and psychological support content for crews onboard the Space Station.

Prior to this, worked as the Deputy Director of NASA Operations in Star City, Russia. Lived and worked in Russia for over three years. Began his career at NASA, as a Space Shuttle instructor for seven space shuttle crews. Has a BA in History, a BS in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia and a MS in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Fluent in Russian and Spanish. Received numerous awards including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for work as an ISS CAPCOM. Enjoys running, hiking, SCUBA diving and flying.

Stephen Mackwell, Ph.D. is the Deputy Executive Officer at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland. He received a B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics and M.Sc. in Astrophysics from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Ph.D. in Geophysics from the Australian National University. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell University, then Professor in Geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University. In 1998, he moved to the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth, Germany, where he was Professor and Institute Director. Dr. Mackwell was USRA's Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, from 2002 until 2016. From 2016 until 2019, he was the Corporate Director, Science Programs at USRA Headquarters in Columbia, MD. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth Science at Rice University. Dr. Mackwell is an experimental geophysicist, studying the mechanical and chemical properties of planetary materials at high-temperatures and pressures. He has published more than 80 refereed papers in respected international journals. He serves on numerous panels and advisory groups for the National Academies, NASA and other federal agencies, as well as within the university community. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Mineralogical Society of America. In 2016, Asteroid 5292 Mackwell (1991 AJ1) was named in honor of his contributions to planetary science.


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