• Hashtag= #7minutesofscience


    While landing on Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) system ejected approximately 300 kg of inert mass to offset its center of gravity before atmospheric entry and then rebalance its center of gravity after atmospheric entry. This 300 kg might be used on future missions for Mars-related science and technology applications.  

    Challenge Description

    This challenge is to develop ideas for how NASA can turn extra available mass on a Mars mission into a scientific or technological payload.  If you had 150 kg of ejectable mass prior to entry and another 150 kg during the entry and landing phase of a Mars mission, what would you do with it? You can take your solution further by developing a prototype to demonstrate its functionality.  Past successful uses by NASA to apply the concept of using dead weight to accomplish scientific objectives include: Get Away Specials on Shuttle, EarthKam on ISS, and CubeSats on unmanned vehicles. 

    Functional Specifications

    On MSL, the 300 kg of ejected inert mass comprised (1) two 75-kg Cruise Ballast Mass Devices (CBMDs) that were ejected at the end of the cruise phase immediately prior to entry, and (2) six 25-kg Entry Ballast Mass Devices (EBMDs) that were ejected after atmospheric entry prior to landing.  Your payload should be either 75 kg or 25 kg and closely match the characteristics of the BMDs

    Power may be required for your payload, but you must account for the harsh environment on entry and landing.  

    The mass will approach the Mars surface at a high speed (see resources below).  If your concept requires survival upon impact, you should accommodate the entry speed and landing loads in your design.

    The CBMDs experience high atmospheric heating after release.  The EMBDs experience somewhat lower heating, but will still be exposed to the entry heating environment on the backshell of the vehicle.

    It is critical to avoid re-contact with the main vehicle while descending to the surface.

    Any data collected will need to be transmitted back to Earth.  The system will need to store and sustain its own data for an indefinite period of time so as to allow future missions to retrieve the data.  The system could also choose to transmit data to existing assets (the lander, an orbiting satellite), but must store the data until it can be transmitted on a non-interference basis—meaning that the data would not be retrieved immediately by the lander or maybe not even on the same mission.

    In your solution, include a statement about how you advance the quantity or quality of science or technology as a result of the new payload concept.


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  • The following projects are solving this challenge:

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