In March 2007, NASA established a panel, the “Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group (HEM-SAG) that was charged with assessing the scientific goals and objectives for the exploration of Mars by humans and to identify potential landing sites for human exploration of Mars. MEPAG asked Dr. James B. Garvin (Chief Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) and Dr. Joel S. Levine (formerly Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center and now, Research Professor of Applied Science at The College of William & Mary) to serve as co-chairs of the HEM-SAG panel and to select about 30 Mars scientists from the U.S., Canada and Europe to serve on the panel. The HEM-SAG panel identified 58 geologically interesting sites for human landing and scientific exploration on Mars (References 1, 2 and 3). The results of HEM-SAG panel were incorporated in the NASA Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0 (Reference 4).

In 2016 and 2013 students in the Planetary Geology course at William & Mary (taught by: Professors Christopher M. Bailey and Joel S. Levine) , analyzed a number of the HEM-SAG landing sites for scientific exploration by humans.  Students formed teams of three students each and selected a potential HEM-SAG identified Mars landing site for their research project. Each team was asked to describe the potential landing site in terms of geology, mineralogy, topography, etc. In addition, the students were asked to develop a “fieldtrip” for the astronauts to address the key scientific questions about the site. The results of the student’s analysis of the HEM-SAG landing sites were reported in a series of presentations to each class and a panel of scientists, the presentations can be viewed and download from the links below.

2016 Projects

3. Meridiani Region Bethany Jackson, Katie Lang, and Sean Wong

6. South Polar Layered Deposits Lyndsey Guthrie and Katherine Peck

7. Gale Crater Danya AbdelHameid, Sherifa Atwa, and Stephanie Wang

19. Arsia Mons Aiyana Bodi, Zach Hasan, and Nick Som

24. Medusae Fossae Eleanor Worthington, Mohini Jodhpurkar, and Alan Falquet

37. Syrtis Major Planum Felicia Lopez, Emily Meehan, and Erin Girven

47. Hecates Tholus Cece Hurtado and Reid Perkins

49. Hesperian Calderas Alexandra Cramer, Livia Marrs, and Marcus Sterman

50. Hesperia Planum Ashley Mitchell, Lea Booth, and Jason Nykorczuk

53. Thaumasia Highlands John Christoph, Daniel Ray, and Gus Williams

2013 Projects

2. Newton Crater Gullies Bewketu Tamir, Patric Callahan, and Patrick King

4. Gusev Crater and Columbia Hills Ryan Flesch, Vincent Cunningham, and Maxwell Cunningham

5. Chasma Boreale Kat Turk, Jeb Cooke, and Stephen Israel

8. Valles Marineris Floor Edward Abrahams, Aaron Martinez, and Anna Spears

10. Eastern Olympus Mons Chris Eisenman, Nathan Keithline, and Ryan Yan

11. Elysium Planitia Nate Ribyat, Meg Gillespie, and Brady Coleman

14. Nili Fossae Annabel Hess, Brandon McCoy, and William Friar

15. Lyot Crater Owen Sitler, Ace Quan Yuan, and Bryce Vogel

18. Aram Chaos Kirkland Broadwell, David Godschalk, and Evan Meltzer

20. Slope Streaks Ethan Lee, Jabrel Mines, and Jared Velasquez

23. Chryse Planitia Zach Fleming, Sebastian Hancock, and Sam Bonanni

30. Terra Cimmeria Mark Ames, Emily Draper, and Andrew Follett

33. Valles Marineris Paige Stuhmuller, Katie Fee, and Angela Mullins

35. North Polar Cap Hanna Bartram, Haley Gannon, and Sarah Young

40. Olympus Mons Caldera Matthew Sniff, Jourdan Peratsakis, and Mike Larson

41. Milankovic Crater Aaron Marshall, Elizabeth Carter, and Clay Harris

42. Kasei Valles Megan Flansburg, Michelle Hoon-Starr, and Connor Kee

46. Utopia Basin Shane Frondelli, Sam Gardner, and Joseph Gies

48. Peak Magnetic Anomalies Kristopher Kusnerik, Karin Lehnigk, and Lauren Pflugrath

51. Huygens Ridge Kristina Martin, Kelsey Watson, and Jannette Morris

52. Syria Planum Taylor Dean, Erin Landis, and Shenandoah Raycroft

56. White Rock Stephen Simmons, Billy Jaeger, and Alden Goodwin


1. MEPAG HEM-SAG , 2008: Planning for the Scientific Exploration of Mars by Humans,90 pages. Draft white paper for review posted March 2008 by the MarsExploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG).

2. Levine, J. S., J. B. Garvin and D. Beaty, 2010: Humans on Mars: Why Mars? Why Humans? Planning for the Scientific Exploration of Mars by Humans, Part 1. Journal of Cosmology, 12, 3627-3635 (http://journalofcosmology.com/Mars115.html).

3. Levine, J. S., J. B. Garvin and J. B. Head, 2010: Martian Geology Investigations. Planning for the Scientific Exploration of Mars by Humans, Part 2. Journal of Cosmology, 12, 3636-3646 (http://journalofcosmology.com/Mars116.html).

4. Drake, B. G., Editor, 2009: Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0, 100 pages. NASA/SP-2009-566 (http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/373665main_NASA-SP-2009-566.pdf).