Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Perhaps the best way to land very large objects on Mars with any kind of efficiency. Now why are there not tons of cool projects like this going on at all times? Why is it that we only try a hypersonic air-breathing flight once or twice a decade? These kinds of research are rather inexpensive, costing at most a few million here or there. Lets get creative, take a few risks, and spend money on RnD from time to time. Use up some sounding rockets already, there are enough of them. More solar sail testing would be nice, or more work on high ISP rockets. How about really accurate lidar systems that fit on orbiters and probes? Imagine if we could scan mars to down to the CM and watch for changes daily? The really expensive projects, which produce incredible results, seem to be sucking the limelight, money, or priority away from little projects. For one Cassini (possibly the best probe to date), how many low budget projects could we fly? If they cost 3.26 million each, the answer is about 1 thousand. That is not to say we should not fly flagship projects, but I suggest that we could also fund many more smaller projects. Inflatable heat shields are very important. They just may allow the next titan lander to have an RTG rover on it.