NASA will have a basic architecture for a manned Mars mission in late July, says NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration systems Doug Cooke.

The Mars work began in January and will build on previous design reference missions produced by NASA. What differs with this study is that the performance specifications of the Ares I crew launch vehicle and Ares V heavy lift vehicle will play a large part in the analysis.

“It won’t be as detailed as the [2005] Exploration Systems Architecture Study [that dealt with the Moon],” says Cooke.

However it will draw conclusions about whether NASA wants to carry out long or short stay missions to Mars, what surface power supply would be used, and what propulsion is required. At the moment NASA envisages a Marsship that is as large as the International Space Station and uses either nuclear or solar electric propulsion systems.

Cooke added that NASA’s aeronautics centers were interested in working on the dynamics of Mars atmospheric entry. Last year NASA administrator Michael Griffin announced that Mars mission studies would be undertaken this year.