EXOLANCE incorporates a delivery system that was originally designed for military purposes. It uses small, lightweight penetrator probes (Arrows) that will deliver a life detection experiment several meters below the Martian surface. Each arrow impacts the surface, deposits a transmitter at the surface to communicate with an orbiter, and kinetically “drills” to five or more meters to deliver the life-detection equipment. It combines the experiments of the 1970s Viking landers and the Curiosity rover with bunker-busting weapons technology.
Specifically, EXOLANCE dispenser – or “Quiver” – will be integrated into the same aeroshell as the lander. It will deploy the individual Arrows as the main lander is braking from supersonic speed (insert images)
EXOLANCE DEVELOPMENT AND TESTING
We intend to build EXOLANCE and test it at a test range in the Mojave Desert in 2014. Many areas of the Mojave Desert feature Mars-like characteristics. We will be able to test both the delivery system (from an aircraft) as well as the ground penetrating arrows. These tests will verify the average depth of penetration and the life detection experiment within the arrows.
Once the concept is sufficiently tested and we have proven the viability of the mission concept, we will urge NASA, other space agencies, and potential commercial providers to carry EXOLANCE on one or more future Mars missions.
EXOLANCE will be developed in two phases. Phase I will focus on the delivery system. Once Phase I has been fully funded, development and testing should be accomplished within 12 months, Phase II will begin. Phase II will focus on developing the microbial life detection experiments needed to search for life below the surface of Mars.