Broadcast 1256 (Special Edition)

13 Nov 2009 Dr. Robert Braun, Robert Manning
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Guests: Dr. Robert (Bobby) Braun, Robert (Rob) Manning. Topics: Entry and descent for landing large Martian payloads. Our guests for this program, Dr. Bobby Braun and Rob Manning, are conducting research on how to land large payloads on Mars. Their paper, "Mars Exploration Entry, Descent and Landing Challenges" was prepared for the IEEAC, #0076 in December 2005. I strongly recommend that you obtain a copy of this paper and read it. Dr. Braun's website for the Space Systems Design Lab at Georgia Tech University is This site contains various papers, journal articles and documents that you will find interesting. In our first segment, our guests provided us with the background and history leading to the challenges of landing large payloads on Mars, including a human mission. This segment also includes an introduction to the density of the Martian atmosphere, the need for heat shielding, and the reliance upon Viking technology for all Martian landers so far. Parachutes and some of the technical issues in using them for a Mars landing were introduced in this segment. Our guests also said that for a manned Mars mission, we would have to use new and different technology. At the end of this segment, we talked about going to Mars as one of the options in the Augustine Commission. In the second segment, our guests clarified that Augustine said Mars was hard and we were not yet ready for it despite it being a goal. A question about a Mars space elevator came in from a listener and you might be surprised by what our guests said about this idea. Advanced technology being used for Mars Science Lab (MSL) was mentioned but it was still based on Viking. The European EXOMARS program, the technology surrounding the use of airbags for landing, and further information on parachute technology was discussed. During our third segment, Dr. Braun and Mr. Manning fielded many listener questions. One such question asked for a comparison in the difficulty and challenges for doing things in space as compared to the development of aviation. Don't miss this fascinating discussion. Another question inquired about differences the use of software and computers have made versus doing things with slide rules and earlier methods. As you will hear, computers have opened the door for simulations, models, testing, and have made a huge difference. Another listener asked if undergrads or graduate students were able to work on real Mars landing challenge problems. Dr. Braun answered by explaining some of the programs and options available at Georgia Tech and the focus of other schools as well. Both our guests talked about how these challenges inspired students to enter the field, take the classes, and work on the problems. The fact that these challenges exist are a real plus for driving students to these programs. Student internships were also mentioned as being available for students to work on the real Mars problems. In our fourth and final segment, we talked about possible solutions to the challenges of landing large payloads on Mars. You definitely will want to hear where the research and solutions are headed as these challenges are worked on and hopefully resolved. I asked both our guests if all other things were equal, could a 2019 date for humans to Mars be met. You might be surprised by what our guests had to say about this deadline. In summarizing our discussion, both our guests said that landing large payloads and humans on Mars presented significant challenges, but they both felt that in time we would figure it out. At the very end of the show, listener Jordan sent in a note about the iPhone being used by NASA for chemical testing and our guests pointed out that there was an iPhone app for Mars entry, descent, and landing which was actually very good. If you have a follow up question for Dr. Braun or Rob Manning, please send it to me at and I will forward it to our guests.



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