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Saturday, January 28, 2023

NASA Plans to Crash Land on Mars

The NASA Mars Sample Return campaign serves as a model for the experimental Mars lander

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Russell Chattaraj
Russell Chattaraj
Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

UNITED STATES: NASA engineers are testing whether or not the easiest way to get to the Martian surface is to crash.

Rather than slow a spacecraft’s high-speed descent, an experimental lander design called SHIELD (Simplified High Impact Energy Landing Device) would use a collapsible base that absorbs the energy of a hard impact. This lander design could enable lower-cost missions to reach the Martian surface.

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The NASA Mars Sample Return campaign serves as a model for the experimental Mars lander. In that program, the Perseverance rover collects rock samples in airtight metal tubes as the first step.

Later, a spacecraft will return those samples to Earth in a tiny capsule and safely crash land in a barren area.

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“We believe we can venture to riskier locales where we wouldn’t want to risk attempting to land a $1 billion rover using our current landing systems. To create a network, perhaps we could even land several of these in various inaccessible regions,” Project manager for SHIELD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Lou Giersch, said.

A full-scale prototype of the collapsible attenuator—an inverted pyramid of metal rings that deflects impact—for the lander was brought by the SHEILD team to the drop tower at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in August.

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The drop tower is equipped with a massive sling, known as a bow launch mechanism, that can propel objects to the surface at speeds comparable to a Mars landing.

To represent the electronics that a spacecraft would carry, an accelerometer, a radio, and an attenuator were inserted and suspended from a hook.

According to NASA, a Mars lander is slowed by atmospheric drag from its initial speed of 14,500 miles per hour (23,335 kilometres per hour) when it enters the Mars atmosphere to about 110 miles per hour (177 kilometres per hour) near the surface.

The bow launcher rammed SHIELD into the ground at that speed in less than two seconds.

The onboard electronics, including the smartphone, were found to have survived the hit when the researchers opened the prototype and removed the dummy electronic payload.

The remainder of the lander will be designed in 2023, according to NASA, who will then assess how far their concept can go.

Also Read: Cosmic Bubble Wrap: NASA’S Hubble Telescope Clicks a Stunner

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  • Russell Chattaraj

    Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

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