[meteorite-list] NASA Tests Future Mars Landing Technology
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2012 15:05:26 -0700 (PDT)
NASA Tests Future Mars Landing Technology
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
June 08, 2012
Traveling 300 million miles through deep space to reach the planet Mars
is difficult; successfully landing there is even harder. The process of
entering the Red Planet's atmosphere and slowing down to land has been
described as "seven minutes of terror."
During the first four minutes of entry, friction with the Martian
atmosphere slows a spacecraft considerably. But at the end of this
phase, the vehicle is still traveling at over 1,000 mph (1,609
kilometers per hour) with only 100 seconds left before landing. Things
need to happen in a hurry. A parachute opens to slow the spacecraft down
to "only" 200 mph (about 322 kilometers per hour), but now there are
only seconds left and the spacecraft is approximately 300 feet from the
ground. From there, the spacecraft may use rockets to provide a gentle
landing on the surface, airbags to cushion the impact of a free fall or
a combination of rockets and tethers to lower a rover to the surface.
Landing payloads that are large enough to bring humans and sustain their
survival on the Red Planet is still beyond our capability. The same
parachute design developed for the Viking missions in the 1970s has been
used for all U.S. missions to the surface of Mars, including the
Curiosity rover that will land in August of this year. To conduct
advanced exploration missions in the future, however, NASA must advance
deceleration technology to a new level of sophistication.
"We have now outgrown that capability and need to develop a larger
parachute that will enable a larger payload," said Mark Adler, project
manager for a new technology demonstration task at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Enter the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Project, an ambitious
technology development and demonstration effort the likes of which has
not been attempted since before the Viking missions to Mars in the
1970's. The project will test inflatable decelerators and advanced
parachutes in a series of rocket sled, wind tunnel, and rocket-powered
The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Project is managed by JPL for
NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist in Washington. The mission is
one of nine missions reporting to the Technology Demonstration Missions
Program managed at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
For the full story, please visit:
NASA continues to develop space technologies such as these to enable
future deep space missions with exciting new capabilities for humans to
explore and discover.
For more information on new space technology and innovations, visit the
Office of Chief Technologist website:
Priscilla Vega 818-354-1357
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
priscilla.r.vega at jpl.nasa.gov
Kim Newton, 256-544-0034
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Kimberly.D.Newton at nasa.gov
Received on Fri 08 Jun 2012 06:05:26 PM PDT