This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Learn more

Landers on the table

Published on:
May 11th 2017

Concept cargo and crew landers.

Last week we introduced the rocket that will carry us from Mars surface back to the orbiting mothership.

Today time has come to the landers, placing us on Mars after we have arrived from Earth. We will have two units. One cargo module and our personal lander. The cargo will go down first and double as a test for our entry.

All units, including the ascender, are almost identical, which enables swapping parts between them if needed.

While leaving Mars is the holy grail in terms of tech, landing there may be easier.

Around 12 landers (a few more or less pending if you count purposely crashed orbiters) have reached Mars surface since 1971. Most landed softly. First out and landing on high altitude; the Russians did the hardest attempts. The Americans landed the biggest victories.

Malfunctions over the years have consisted mainly in landers failing to transmit data or simply having software hiccups shortly before touchdown. We will have possibility to override robotics from orbit or within the lander, so the situation will be easier on us.

Studying the previous Mars landers we noticed they all came in on similar altitudes and angle of entry, and used replicate base systems: To break initial speed they came in "blunt body" (butt first) in Mars atmosphere, took the friction wrapped in a break-away foil type (heat) shield, employed  parachutes when closing in, and burned small retro-rockets in final stages.

Some fancier versions used airbags, foam, a crane latest - although we will stick to basic technology.

The trick is to get as much atmosphere as possible for the breaking (Mars atmosphere is shorter than on earth). We can achieve that in several ways: Orbit Mars a number of times before landing, land as low as possible (although those spots are mainly desert so a bit boring) and be as light as we can.

We have designed the lander to be not much bigger/heavier than what is already there, which means we won't have to reinvent too much of the tech.

Storage is in the white shell surrounding the tanks, and on the platform. For the next step, we are designing the actual engines and may also try out ideas for the Mars habitat/base camp in real-life. Stay tuned.

Tina Sjogren
Tina Sjogren
Share this update:

Tom demonstrating scale: Outer ring is the size of the Apollo moon lander (ca 10m diameter, 7m high). Inner ring is Pythom Mars lander, (3m diameter, 3.5m high).