26 June 2011
Spectacular New MSL Animation!
Posted by Ryan Anderson
You guys. Drop everything and take a look at this spectacular 11 minute animation of Curiosity landing on Mars!
If you would prefer a shorter, narrated version, then NASA has that covered too:
These new videos use a very accurate 3D rendering of the rover, so that means that finally, there are also new still images of MSL! I don’t have to keep using that same outdated picture over and over when I post!
Also, at the 5th MSL landing site workshop, I got to hang out with Doug Ellison who was involved in making these videos and I picked up a couple of pieces of trivia that I thought would be worth sharing. First of all, you might notice that the “flame” at MSL enters the martian atmosphere is blue, not orange. This was a deliberate choice: ionized CO2 glows blue, so this is a more accurate depiction of what it would really look like as MSL plunged through the upper atmosphere on Mars.
Also, you probably notices that as the capsule enters the atmosphere, it tosses a bunch of bricks overboard. These are weights used to adjust the center of mass of the capsule. First several weights are discarded to make the capsule slightly off center. This affects its tilt as it enters the atmosphere, which in turn generates lift and allows the capsule to steer to its destination. Then once that stage of entry is over, more weights are tossed overboard to level things out again. It blew my mind that, in a business where mass is the most precious commodity of all, we were sending these large bricks (if my memory serves, they are 22kg each) all the way to Mars only to toss them overboard! But it’s for a good cause: the ability to steer during re-entry is a big part of why the landing ellipse for MSL is nearly circular, while the ellipse for previous missionswas very elongated.
Awesome stuff…but Skycrane still scares the living **** out of me!
SkyCrane scares everyone! The scariest thing is that the engineers seem extremely confident about it! I just keep telling myself that they managed to land the MERs by bouncing them, which seems at least as crazy as the SkyCrane.
Is the sky crane concept optimised for this particular missions mass or can it be used for higher mass missions in the future ?
Is the hybrid atmospheric conditions on Mars a Giant reentry test tube for the interplanetary engineers ?
Will they have to reinvent entry architecture for future manned missions ?
Perhaps a robotic mission to Hellas could use Pathfinder entry technology again.
I think the current skycrane is optimized for MSL’s mass, but unlike the airbag system, since Skycrane relies on rockets and cables, it should be able to be scaled up to larger masses. I think the heat shield becomes more difficult with large masses, although the development of MSL’s heat shield may have overcome some of those hurdles.
Not that we have to worry about anything nearly as large as MSL going to Mars any time soon… crewed missions are far off in the distant future, and the way the budget looks we will be lucky to land anything on Mars in the decade after MSL!
Its amazing what happens to cultures when they experience economic and cultural shocks that rock their belief systems.
I would not discount a one way manned mission / Direct architecture withen a decade – it would cost no more then the ISS white elephant but would become the J – missions of the 21rst century.
All that needs to be changed is the subtraction of risk withen western culture since the days of Apollo
Once you have heavy lift all you need is a HAB thats gets below the Datum somewhere , resupply every 2 years with delta heavies if further heavy lift not a option.