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MARSDROP Microprobes Are a Cost-Effective Approach to Expand the Scientific Return of Future Mars Missions

 
  
 
 
Microprobes that piggyback on Mars-bound spacecraft could investigate areas currently unavailable to surface instruments, PSI Senior Scientist Rebecca M.E. Williams said.
 
MARSDROP is a small reentry vehicle that has successfully been flown from Earth orbit. Using this design to reduce cost, the team estimates that two MARSDROP landers would add less than 5 percent to the base cost of a major mission.   MARSDROP is a cost-effective way to double or triple the number of Mars landers for each mission opportunity.  
 
The payload could be steered to scientifically desired targets during the gliding phase, enabling a wide variety of enticing research locations including canyons, fresh impact crater sites, volcanoes and glaciers.
  
The MARSDROP capability is an economical approach to broaden the range of science questions that can be addressed, from complimenting the primary payload with additional surface observations from site(s) beyond the rover’s reach, to conducting surface change monitoring at sites of modern geologic activity, to creating a seismic network, Williams said. 
 
Williams is collaborating with Matthew Eby at Aerospace Corp and a group or engineers and scientists at JPL led by Robert Staehle in developing MARSDROP.  
 
Above, PSI’s Rebecca M.E. Williams presented her poster on MARSDROP at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston on March 17.
Credit: J. Brian Balta/The Earth Story
 
Below, The stages of the MARSDROP landing architecture are illustrated.  The steerable parawing glider is capable of up to 10 minutes of guided flight covering a lateral distance of approximately 10 kilometers (~6 miles).  Foreground image is a Mars Exploration Rover.  Inset is from a high-altitude weather balloon drop test that demonstrated parawing deployment within speeds and atmospheric conditions expected during Mars entry.  The image captures the parawing and capsule descending to the Nevada desert floor.  
 
 
  
 
April 6, 2015
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