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Assessment of wind energy resource potential for future human missions to Mars


Energy sustainability and redundancy for surface habitats, life support systems and scientific instrumentation represent one of the highest-priority issues for future crewed missions to Mars. However, power sources utilized for the current class of robotic missions to Mars may be potentially dangerous near human surface habitats (for example, nuclear) or lack stability on diurnal or seasonal timescales (for example, solar) that cannot be easily compensated for by power storage. Here, we evaluate the power potential for wind turbines as an alternative energy resource on the Mars surface. Using a state-of-the-art Mars global climate model, we analyse the total planetary Martian wind potential and calculate its spatial and temporal variability. We find that wind speeds at some proposed landing sites are sufficiently fast to provide a stand-alone or complementary energy source to solar or nuclear power. While several regions show promising wind energy resource potential, other regions of scientific interest can be discarded based on the natural solar and wind energy potential alone. We demonstrate that wind energy compensates for diurnal and seasonal reductions in solar power particularly in regions of scientific merit in the midlatitudes and during regional dust storms. Critically, proposed turbines stabilize power production when combined with solar arrays, increasing the percent time that power exceeds estimated mission requirements from ~40% for solar arrays alone to greater than 60–90% across a broad fraction of the Mars surface. We encourage additional study aimed at advancing wind turbine technology to operate efficiently under Mars conditions and to extract more power from Mars winds.

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Fig. 1: Wind power potential varies with altitude above the surface. At 50 m the ratio of wind to solar power can exceed 1.
Fig. 2: Wind power density exceeds solar power density particularly in the winter hemisphere mid- to polar latitudes.
Fig. 3: Wind energy increases during global dust storms while solar power is reduced.
Fig. 4: Wind power is greatest at night when solar power is at a minimum.
Fig. 5: Regions where wind energy could provide power for human missions.
Fig. 6: We identify 13 new potential regions of interest.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available on Zenodo ( Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

Python scripts used to analyse data and generate figures in this paper are available on Github ( with a copy deposited in Zenodo This research also made use of the Mars Climate Modeling Center Community Analysis Pipeline, available on Github (


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We thank C. St. Martin for suggestions during the initial conceptualization of this project. Research was sponsored by NASA through a contract with ORAU. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of NASA or the US government. The US government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for government purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation herein. This work was authored in part by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308. Funding was provided by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office and by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium under Agreement No. CRD-19-16351. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Energy or the US government. The publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the US government retains, a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide licence to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for US government purposes. Additional funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Grant No. 1144083 (V.L.H.), the NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (V.L.H.) through contracts with USRA and ORAU, and the NASA Internship Program (O.A.P.).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



V.L.H. was responsible for the conceptualization, experimental design and primary investigation of the presented research. V.L.H. wrote the original draft and generated visuals. Funding was provided by V.L.H. O.B.T., J.K.L. and M.A.K. helped design the study methodology and reviewed and edited the manuscript. O.A.P. assisted in the investigation and visualization of work.

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Correspondence to V. L. Hartwick.

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Nature Astronomy thanks María-Paz Zorzano and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–13, Tables 1–5 and references.

Supplementary Video 1

Animation of Fig. 2 with wind (colour map) and solar (contours) power density throughout one Martian year, with a step of 3 Ls.

Supplementary Video 2

Animation of Supplementary Fig. 2 (colour map: wind power; contours: solar power).

Supplementary Data 1

Aeolos-V 300 W Wind Turbine Power Curve Data(49).

Supplementary Data 2

Jacobs 31-20 20 kW Wind Turbine Power Curve Data(47).

Supplementary Data 3

Enercon E33 330 kW Wind Turbine Power Curve Data(46).

Supplementary Data 4

NREL 5 MW Wind Turbine Power Curve Data(48).

Supplementary Data 5

Annual average wind power density (W m−2), energetic yield (kWh per sol) and AEP (GWh) for a single Enercon E33 wind turbine at locations where the diurnal average wind power exceeds 24 kW at all times (red squares in Fig. 5).

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Source Data for Fig. 1.

Source Data Fig. 2

Source Data for Fig. 2.

Source Data Fig. 3

Source Data for Fig. 3.

Source Data Fig. 4

Source Data for Fig. 4.

Source Data Fig. 5

Source Data for Fig. 5.

Source Data Fig. 6

Source Data for Fig. 6.

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Hartwick, V.L., Toon, O.B., Lundquist, J.K. et al. Assessment of wind energy resource potential for future human missions to Mars. Nat Astron 7, 298–308 (2023).

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