The Southwest Initiative for Mars (SwIM), 15-9272

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Principal Investigator
Alan Stern (Don Hassler)
Wesley Patrick
David Winningham
Mike Miller
Ernest Franke
Brent Nowak
Ronnie Killough

Inclusive Dates:  11/01/01 - 04/30/04

Background - SwIM, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Initiative for Mars, was proposed and approved as a Focused Internal Research and Development (IR&D) project in late 2001.

Approach - The four specific goals of SwIM included:

  • To build Mars/NASA business capability across multiple SwRI divisions.
  • To bring established Mars experts and project investigators into SwRI.
  • To build technical competencies in the focus areas of future Mars missions.
  • To propose and win NASA Mars projects involving scientific studies and hardware/instrument systems.

SwIM was initially funded at a level of $2.1M, with a two-year term running through 2003. In 2003, a third-year extension was approved, accompanied by an increase in funding to $3.1M. SwIM's primary activities involved increasing Mars science and technology interest at SwRI, recruiting several established Mars scientists to SwRI, and seeding additional Mars science and technology work via 21 SwIM IR&D projects. SwIM also organized technical workshops and colloquia on Mars science and Mars technology efforts and built a skills database of Mars expertise for researchers to use.

Accomplishments - SwIM's accomplishments included:

  • Involving over 100 SwRI technical staff in Mars-related IR&D projects and technical workshops.
  • Hiring two well-established Mars investigators and their groups to the Institute.
  • Securing new, externally funded Mars work in Divisions 03, 15, 18, and 20.
  • Winning the first SwRI instrument to fly to the surface of Mars, the RAD experiment won by Dr. Don Hassler (Div 15) for the 2009 NASA Mars Science Lander (MSL) mission.

In total, SwIM has directly generated more than $12 million in new external project work. As such, SwIM has clearly produced a strongly net positive return on investment. Perhaps more importantly, because of an active base of Mars-related work at the Institute, SwIM is expected to yield externally funded grants, instrument, technology, and mission contract proposals for many years. Indeed, if President Bush's mandate to NASA to undertake a human exploration program that could ultimately involve sending humans to Mars later in this century comes to fruition, the ultimate yield of SwIM may not be known for decades.

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