Micro61 header images

Image credits: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Microsymposium 61
The next frontier in planetary exploration

March 14-15, 2020 (just prior to LPSC 51)

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center
1601 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, Texas, USA

Jack Mustard (Brown University) and Vlada Stamenkovic | (JPL) co-organizers



The third dimension of planetary bodies remains largely unexplored. Pioneering and revealing geophysical measurements have shown some aspects of the interiors of planetary objects. But the subsurface presents many opportunities to expand our knowledge of habitability & resources for human exploration. For example, the surprising discovering of 12-14% porosity kilometers into the Moon by the GRAIL mission is transformative for understanding subsurface habitability of Mars and Early Earth as well as other planets. While the cold, dry surface of Mars with its harsh radiation environments is widely considered to be uninhabitable, the subsurface has been hypothesized to be the longest-lived habitable environment, protected from the harsh surface conditions and a place where water could be stable. Similarly, for Europa the surface temperature and radiation conditions would not support life, yet the promise of subsurface habitability is huge. On the Earth, we are learning more and more of the vast world of Life Underground from the diverse yet largely unexplored biology to the prospects of billion-year old groundwater. And we will be needing subsurface exploration to determine the availability of useful resources on the Moon and on Mars for human exploration. The field of “Planets Underground” poses many exciting science puzzles and questions, and technological challenges to gain access to measurements relevant to these questions.  

The 61st Microsymposium will frame and address several of these questions as we consider exploration strategies for this new frontier in the coming decades.  What are the major outstanding scientific questions for subsurface exploration for geology, 3-D architecture and composition of crusts, biology and ISRU?  What are the enabling technologies and mission concepts? What is the role of international and commercial collaboration? Can we answer some of the critical questions with small affordable spacecraft?
The workshop will be focused on 1) keynote presentations for identifying fundamental questions in these broad areas of investigation, followed by 2) reports and discussions on current and future plans for accessing and characterizing the subsurface – on the Moon, Mars, and beyond.  Invitations are extended to, and participation is expected from, representatives from Russia, China, ESA, India, Japan, the United States, Korea, and other space-faring nations and commercial enterprises.  

The program will be a mix of invited and contributed papers and will convene on Saturday, March 14, 2030 (1 PM-5 PM, posters and reception 5-7 pm) and Sunday, March 15, 2020 (8:30 AM-1 pm). The Microsymposium will emphasize an open discussion format and will be anchored by invited overviews, commentaries and posters. If you are interested in participating in Micro 61, please save these dates and be alert for our next announcements.