The Next Mars Rover Needs A Mega-chute

Illustration for article titled The Next Mars Rover Needs A Mega-chute

NASA tests the next generation of space parachute inside the world's largest wind tunnel, built to hold a Boeing 737. The 165-foot-long parachute opens to a diameter of nearly 55 feet, holds more air than a 3,000 square foot house, and can survive loads of over 80,000 pounds. NASA hopes to launch its new Mars Science Lab in 2009, which will put the next generation of rover on the surface of Mars in 2010. Click through for a couple of images of the new rover in progress.

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Illustration for article titled The Next Mars Rover Needs A Mega-chute

Above is an artist's image of the next-generation Mars rover, and below is a model of the Mars rover which engineers call the Scarecrow, because it's missing its computer brain. Mobility engineers are using the headless rover to test its mobility and suspension performance.

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Illustration for article titled The Next Mars Rover Needs A Mega-chute

The next Mars rover faces development problems and skyrocketing costs, which could threaten its 2009 launch date. Images by AP/NASA.

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DISCUSSION

@Gopherit: You do realize that's completely senseless, don't you? It would be like the telling Columbus "Until you work out a regular ferry route between here and the Caribbean to transport all the tourists, we're never going to let you sail." First, the rovers do have a huge ammount of herritage in their design. The reason you can't see that is because they're designed to do completely different things. (You would probably want someone trying to fly around the world non-stop to use a Cessna 172.) This rover is many times bigger than any that has been sent before, and it needs to be that way in order to accomplish its goals. It wouldn't be physically possible, or at least would require far, far more in the way of development costs, to miniaturize every component in order to be able to fit it onto a Surveyor or Pathfinder size chassis. And then, if you only send out one or two probes a decade, does it really make sense to have a common design that would need to stretch for decades? Of course not; new technologies come into play way, way too often for that to be possible. Could more commonality be used? Perhaps, but then people complain about a lack of innovation, or "just going back" like they do with the Orion capsule.