Landing heavy things on Mars

The Martian atmosphere is too thin for parachutes to be efficient, but too thick to allow landers to decelerate using only rocket engines. Consequently, a great deal of ingenuity is required to drop massive objects (like robots, and one day, people) onto the Martian surface without breaking them. (via space.com)

Here’s a beautiful graphical review of the approaches we have used in the past — and one prospect for delivering even larger payloads in the future.

landing heavy payloads on mars

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Deteriorating vision in microgravity: a challenge for human Mars missions

To the list of health-related problems caused by exposure to microgravity, including bone loss and the effects of radiation, we must now add deterioration of visual acuity. The problem may be related to increased cerebrospinal fluid pressure, an issue not easily resolved by stationary biking and resistance training. How serious the vision loss might be, as well as whether it stabilizes over time, remains to be determined.

Artificial gravity (e.g., attained by rotating the habitation portion of the interplanetary vehicle) might help address this, but the current plans for the Mars One transit vehicle do not involve such an arrangement. Then again, that could change. I guess we’ll see.

(via space.com — the piece is by Michael D Wall, whom I met once in a bar in San Francisco)