Micro61 header images

Image credits: NASA/JPL/Caltech


Microsymposium 61
The next frontier in planetary exploration

Saturday, March 14, 2020 (just prior to LPSC 51)
8:30am - 6:30pm

Montgomery Ballroom B and C
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

Dear Colleagues,

The Lunar and Planetary Institute, in coordination with NASA, has made the very important and wise decision, in the face of significant public health and safety concerns about the Coronavirus, to cancel the 51st Lunar and Planetary Science conference. This will include all peripheral meetings associated with the LPSC meeting. Sadly this will include the 61st Microsymposium Planets Underground. Vlada and I are very disappointed that we will not be able to connect with you on the exciting topic of Planets Underground, but we understand and support the LPI and NASA in their decision. The agenda for the Microsymposium was extremely rich and Vlada and I thank each and every one of the speakers and contributors who volunteered their time and thoughts to helping us craft such a great intersection of important and leading edge science with fantastic engineering concepts and designs. We also know many people adjusted their professional and personal schedules to plan their attendance as participants and as observers and we understand the extra efforts that took. We will not be rescheduling the 61st Microsymposium Planets Underground. Looking ahead Vlada and I will be targeting other upcoming meets like AGU and next year’s LPSC. Keep the spirits up and look for future opportunities coming your way.

Best Regards,

Jack Mustard and Vlada Stamenkovic 


Meeting Agenda (PDF)

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, 2020 from 8:30 AM to 6:30 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.