Why NASA Is Attempting to Crash Land on Mars


You recognize, typically the outdated methods are the very best. A minimum of, in the case of touchdown on Mars and different planets, it’s price taking a look at previous successes—and failures. That’s the case with an concept that engineers at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory are testing: crashing spacecraft onto surfaces.

Now, in fact, NASA (and others) have already crashed loads of missions onto the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. A minimum of a few of these had been inadvertent collisions. However, a lot extra had been intentional. So, what if a mission may crash, survive, and go on to do some cutting-edge science?

Elevating a SHIELD for a Lander

That’s the query that impressed SHIELD, which stands for Simplified Excessive Affect Power Touchdown Machine. It’s an experimental design that might have a collapsible bumper on a lander. That may give the spacecraft a crumple zone that theoretically may soak up the power of a tough affect on the Mars floor, for instance.

Why crash-land a spacecraft on the Crimson Planet? NASA has a terrific monitor document of sending wonderful spacecraft to Mars utilizing parachutes, airbags, and jetpacks that assist a lander get down safely. However these are costly and sophisticated. A crash touchdown is definitely pretty cheap and a reasonably straightforward strategy to get a spacecraft settled onto the panorama. The one drawback is, it’s harmful and dangerous, and you find yourself with a RUD (speedy unscheduled disassembly).

So, what in case you may do a crash touchdown and NOT disassemble the lander? A rigorously managed crash touchdown would definitely convey down the prices fairly a bit. First, it will change the entry, descent, and touchdown (EDL) profile. And, if it’s managed effectively, a crash lander may go to locations which can be a bit riskier to go to. That’s in accordance with SHIELD mission supervisor Lou Giersch. “We expect we may go to extra treacherous areas, the place we wouldn’t need to danger attempting to put a billion-dollar rover with our present touchdown programs,” he mentioned. “Perhaps we may even land a number of of those at completely different difficult-to-access places to construct a community.”

Testing a Crash Touchdown on Mars

Okay, so if there’s a NASA engineering workforce fascinated about this, how would it not work? Take into consideration what must be protected on the spacecraft: electronics and devices. These are the heart of any mission. With out them, any lander is lifeless within the mud on Mars. So, NASA engineers thought of delicate instrumentation like automotive engineers would take into consideration folks in automobiles.

They deliberate a check in a drop tower at JPL, utilizing instrumental “crash check dummies” surrounded by SHIELD’s collapsible attenuator—basically it’s like a automotive’s crumple zone low-crash-speed bumper. Then, they raised it to the highest of the tower and slammed it into the bottom at about 177 km per hour. That’s roughly the pace a Mars lander travels after atmospheric drag slows it down throughout EDL. The onboard accelerometer measured the affect and located it had a pressure of about 1 million newtons. That’s corresponding to 112 tons smashing in opposition to the goal.

So, what occurred? Did it work? The SHIELD impacted the goal after which bounced a couple of meter into the air. Then it flipped over. As soon as the mud settled, the engineering workforce opened up the payload and inspected the digital payload (which included a smartphone).

The excellent news is: every thing necessary survived. A number of small plastic items had been damaged, however the proof of idea succeeded. The subsequent step can be, as all the time, extra testing. It could possibly be some time earlier than scientists belief a whole spacecraft to this SHIELD. Nevertheless, sooner or later, it may effectively present reasonably priced and quick entry to Mars. That’s particularly excellent news for planetary scientists who need to discover some dicier locations which can be too dangerous for the dearer and sophisticated forms of rovers they’re at the moment utilizing.

Testing a crash touchdown for a future Mars lander. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

For Extra Info

Why NASA Is Attempting to Crash Land on Mars

Supply hyperlink