Saturday, 15 September 2012

Detailed Mars Landing Pt.I

Now as I mentioned in the previous posts, the Venus landing projects were really just to survey the landscape and atmosphere of our other celestial neighbour. There was no intention to advanced surveys or exploration to a manned mission capacity. Mars is a totally different story. The amount of advanced probes and satellites that have been sent to Mars is astounding. More recently in popular culture, is the Curiosity Rover which is five times bigger than any rover Earth has sent to Mars before. Equipped with an advanced nuclear powered multi-terrain laboratory. It's sole purpose, to excavate rock and analyse with its on-board spectrometric tools and techniques. This was a huge endeavour by Jet Propulsion Labs, NASA (JPL). As due to the distance from Mars, light takes 14 minutes (currently) to reach Earth. Leaving a remote controlled device option, in the most difficult phase of the project(the landing) impossible. This was pre programmed with its own calculations and factors. People would say, that’s great, its like a computer, nothing special. But that is where they would be wrong. Take a minute to think about all the elements you would need to calculate and analyse for a pre programmed landing, not to mention a landing so far away, that people on Earth wouldn't even know about in true detail until 14 minutes later. First we look at weight, the probe is a certain weight and typically has Mass, this is something to think about when falling down to the surface of Mars, you need adequate fuel for boosters (Retro-rockets) so as to cushion the landing phase. The parachutes would need to be made of a high quality polymer so as not to rip or the sanding storms cover them in dust, or sway them from their landing designation. One huge factor would be gravity. Gravity is factored differently on Mars than Earth. These are all assumptions but based on mathematical models. This is to allow scientists and engineers to reverse engineer solutions to compensate for these otherwise foreign terrains and environments. Timing, timing is crucial, a second late or early could be fatal to the mission and/or the Curiosity rover. Everything was pre programmed on a computer on Earth with a timer and gauges to detect altitudes, Mars spin speeds and orbital velocities etc.

Part II Next.



  • Anonymous says:
    18 September 2012 at 08:17

    Awesome stuff! I saw the Mars pictures but I didn't know about any landing details.

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