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Integrating New Concepts for Entry, Descent and Landing for Future Human Missions to Mars

posted Jul 3, 2012, 3:47 PM by M Stoltz
By Nancy Atkinson, UniverseToday, 07.03.12

One of the most technically difficult tasks of any future manned missions to Mars is to get the astronauts safely on the ground. The combination of the high speed needed for a short trip in space and the much lighter Martian atmosphere creates an aerodynamics problem that has been solved only for robotic spacecraft so far. If people will one day walk Mars’ dusty surface, we will need to develop better Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) technologies first.

Those technologies are part of a recent meeting of the Lunar Planetary Institute (LPI), The Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration conference, held June 12-14 in Houston, which concentrated on the latest advances in technologies that might solve the EDL problem.

Of the multitude of technologies that were presented at the meeting, most seemed to involve a multi-tiered system comprising several different strategies. The different technologies that will fill those tiers are partly mission-dependent and all still need more testing. Three of the most widely discussed were Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators (HIADs), Supersonic Retro Propulsion (SRP), and various forms of aerobraking.

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[Image: NASA]