artist concept of Mars Science Laboratory

From Legs to Wheels

Aug. 20 & 21

NASA's next mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory, will be landing with an extremely unusual landing system -- a skycrane invented by the mission team specifically to land a large rover in scientifically exciting locations on Mars. But why not use "tried and true" solutions like legs or airbags? This talk will look at the fascinating history and evolution of how the skycrane landing architecture evolved from simple landing legs used on JPL's Surveyor lunar landers of the 1960s to the current design. It will describe how the mission team spent years evaluating the landing techniques used on missions from Viking, Lunokhod, Pathfinder and Apollo to distill out the features and performance from each that helped meet the demanding requirements of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Numerous interesting and bizarre concepts and configurations, most of which never left the drawing boards and some of which were actually prototyped and tested, will be described.

Tom Rivellini
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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