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                 The Mars Society Australia, Inc is an APPROVED RESEARCH INSTITUTE for the purposes of Section 73A of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 for undertaking scientific research which is, or may prove to be, of value to Australia.

Mars-Oz: A Simulated Mars Base in the Arkaroola Region

The Base Site
Base Design
Mission Plan
Project Archive


The centrepiece of MSA's technical program is the proposed Mars-Oz simulated Mars base. The aim of the simulated base is to explore the issues of living and working on another planet. This includes facilitating research into social-psychological factors and related engineering design of crewed missions to Mars or the moon. In summary the project goals are:

These goals have driven the design of the Mars-Oz and the selection of a suitable location. In addition, the proposed base located within the Arkaroola region can provide planetary scientists and engineers opportunities to evaluate different exploration methodologies, technologies and associated risks by undertaking field trials and simulations for both individual components and integrated systems. In particular field trials of unmanned rovers, manned rovers and space suit designs can be conducted over a wide range of terrain.

The Proposed Site

The preferred site for the Mars-Oz simulated base lies on the
Arkaroola lease, Australia’s first and largest private nature preserve. The Sprigg family who run the property have a long history of supporting scientific research and eco-tourism. They are supportive of the establishment of a Mars analogue facility and the many visitors to the region provide an excellent opportunity for outreach. Arkaroola is eight hours by road north of Adelaide. In an emergency the all weather airstrip at Balcanoona would permit air evacuation by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The same airstrip can also be used by charter operators.

An account of the site selection process which identified the Arkaroola region may be read here, and detailed report describing the rationale for the specific site may be downloaded as a pdf document.

Base Design

The facility consists of two 20 tonne road-transportable modules designed round concept mission using a “Mars Semi Direct” architecture and horizontally landed bent biconic spacecraft. The facility is designed to house up to 8 people at a time, and can undergo progressive expansion with additional modules, as required. A simulated Mars rover, the
Starchaser Marsupial is being built in Perth, Western Australia and will form part of the base complex.

The Mars-Oz concept employs a Hab, a Cargo vehicle and Mars Transfer Vehicle (MTV). (The Mars Transfer Vehicle is not discussed here.) A summary of vehicle functions is given below.

  • Habitat (Hab) - Travels to the Martian surface, direct from earth and becomes the core of the Mars base. It consists of a cabin, propulsion module, heat shield, landing engines and parachutes. Concept designs of the interior of the unit, include the floorplan and fittings have been prepared by Kerstin Thompson Architects. (See the links below to floor plans, sections and perspective images).

  • Cargo Vehicle - Transports equipment to the Martian surface direct from earth 2 years prior to the arrival of the crew. The equipment consists of a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) for the crew to reach low mars orbit, hydrogen stock fuel, an in-situ resource utilisation processing plant, a pressurised rover and surface supplies for the crew. It also has a propulsion module, heat shield, landing engines and parachutes.

  • Mars Transfer Vehicle (MTV) - Travels to low Mars orbit from earth. It transports the crew back to Earth from low mars orbit. It consists of a cabin, landing capsule with heat shield, and propulsion module for earth return.

Technical drawings and perpective views showing configuration details of the proposed facility may be downloaded in pdf or jpg format by clicking on the links below.

Habitat & Garage Assembly
Habitat Floor Plans & Sections
Habitat 3D internal/external views
Habitat Transport Details
Garage Floor Plans

Animation by Kerstin Thompson Architects showing interior configuration

Mission Plan

We have adopted a 62 tonne horizontally landed bent biconic spacecraft as the basis of the Mars-Oz vehicles. A detailed design concept has been completed of these vehicles for use in a real Mars mission and published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society May/June 2005 issue.

The Advantages of the Horizontally Landed Bent Biconic Spacecraft
We find the horizontally landed bent biconic spacecraft is best suited for building Mars bases compared to other vehicle concepts. They have superior cargo carrying capacity, easier loading and unloading, provides the biggest potential for growth by simply lengthening, offer good static and ground stability and simpler to provide radiation protection. These vehicles must function for many years as part of a growing and changing Mars base. It is therefore desirable that the vehicle design is optimized as part of a Mars base rather than for traveling to Mars.

Heavy Launcher Type
The vehicles are of a size that can fit to the back of a shuttle or Energia launch system. The 62 tonne mass limit ensures a 100 tonne trans-mars booster can also be launched into Earth low orbit via the same launch system. A LEO assembly is required in 2 parts. First the Hab or Cargo Vehicle is launched into LEO followed by a second launch providing the trans-Mars booster. The booster rendezvous with the Hab in LEO and then throws the assembly on to a trajectory to Mars.

The landing sequence for the mission plan is shown in the image below.

Biconic Cargo Landing Sequence (link to image)


Flashline Arctic Station
Mars Desert Research Station
Arkaroola Resort
Orbiter - A Free Space Flight Simulator
SimCosmos -Virtual Dreams
(Home of Mars-Oz Orbiter Project, first news on 18/12/2005)

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