(ORDO NEWS) — For years, NASA has used tons of gear, from giant airbags and parachutes to jetpacks, to force its rovers to land softly on the surface of Mars.
Now the agency is planning to test a completely new approach, which involves deliberately colliding a spacecraft with the Martian surface.
To do this, the agency is working on a special protective shell that will work on the principle of a “crumple zone”. It is this phenomenon that ensures the safety of car occupants during a collision.
As NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) notes in a blog post, scientists are working on an experimental landing device concept they call the Simplified High Impact Energy Landing Device, or SHIELD for short, a smart device that could allow us to send rovers to even more treacherous regions of the Red Planet.
SHIELD, JPL notes, “will use a bellows-like demountable base that acts as the car’s crumple zone and absorbs the energy of a hard impact.”
To test the new approach, NASA dropped electronics at over 160 kilometers per hour from the tower in a full-size SHIELD mock-up that looks like an inverted pyramid made up of metal rings. The experiment was, according to JPL officials, “an overwhelming success.”
The only hardware that was damaged was some plastic components that we weren’t worried about,” SHIELD Project Manager Lou Hirsch said in the post.
Using this technology, according to JPL, could make landing on Mars much cheaper “by simplifying the grueling process of entry, descent and landing” – and could open the door to more opportunities to land on a barren planet.
Recall that at present, probes land on Mars using a number of equipment, including the almost fantastic technology “Heavenly Crane”.
A special platform actually hangs over the surface of the Red Planet and lowers the probe to a safe height on a special crane, after which the cargo is disconnected.
On the probe itself, special softening pillows are inflated, allowing you to gently land the spacecraft on the hard surface of the rocky Mars.
NASA hopes that with the help of the SHIELD system it will be possible to send probes to hard-to-reach places on Mars, where previously the landing of equipment was virtually impossible due to the surface features.
This will allow us to explore more remote regions of the planet and get more useful information about this celestial body.
It should also be noted that with SHIELD a much wider circle of planets and satellites opens up, where you can simply throw a spacecraft without worrying about its condition during the landing process.
A lot of new discoveries may depend on the success of this new method of protecting devices, so this project will be interesting to watch, although a decade may pass by the time it is actually used.
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