Physics Students Simulate NASA Mars Landing

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 1:13pm

Through careful design and many experimental trials, NASA engineers have developed a way to safely land Mars rovers when approaching the planet at speeds exceeding 12,000 miles. Once the heat shield has done its part in effectively bringing the lander to a vertical stop 40 to 50 feet above the ground, the bridle that tethers the lander to the aeroshell's backshell is cut, and the lander containing the rover inside, free falls to the surface and bounces its way to a stop. 

All Physics students recently participated in an project called the Great Pumpkin Smash.  The purpose of this event was to design and build a container to transport a pumpkin from a height of 6 meters to the ground level safely.  "Safely" implies no cracks, breaks, or pumpkin guts anywhere.  The pumpkin smash simulates the action of the free falling moon lander and the subsequent bouncing that occurs.  Students were able develop skills in experimental design while learning about innovations in science.