Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Parachute problems again for NASA’s flying saucer

In its second flight today NASA’s engineering vehicle for testing Mars landing technologies, dubbed a flying saucer by the press because of its shape, had a similar problem as in its first flight, with its parachutes failing to inflate properly during landing.

More here. This test was not only to check out landing technologies, it was to check out the redesigned parachute that had failed in the previous test last year.

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  • Cotour

    Q: Why are they choosing to initially spin this particular space craft, to create stability and orientation?

  • mivenho

    Does NASA plan to to use the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator to augment propulsive landings on Mars or to eliminate the need for them?

  • pzatchok

    I think they plan on totally removing the need to use heat shields and a high speed ‘burn in’ into the atmosphere.

    I think they still plan on using a rocket assist vertical landing.

  • pzatchok

    I was just thinking..

    Maybe a stupid idea.

    But how about if they deployed the chute BEFORE hitting the atmosphere?
    AH! but it will not inflate in outer space.
    But what if you placed the inflatable ring around the outer edge of the chute to force it to full size before encountering the atmosphere?
    It would hit the less dense air first and give itself a far better chance of slowing down the craft and more time instead of waiting to hit air dense enough to deploy and inflate the chute.

    Put that stupid inflatable ring on the HUGE parachute instead of the little spacecraft.

    Hey NASA if you use my idea and it works cut me a nice check.
    I’m cheaper than your staff of engineers.

  • Arbitrary

    The first seems more reasonable that the last. And I don’t think that parachutes will prevail in the long run, but rocket power certainly will (until some new physics enters the scene). The “superdraco” rockets on the Dragon2 are angled in order for their thrust to create a larger area of air resistance than what vertical thrusters could. An inflatable decelerator sounds like a complement to that, maybe allowing even larger angle of the thrusters.

    A bit ironic that the parachutes screw up the tests of the non-parachute solution.

  • Max

    Why inflate the outer ring of a parachute when you can inflate the entire parachute into a Balloon that will lower the payload softly? Once the payload detaches at 50 feet in mars low gravity and bounces inside its Airbag like the other lander did, the balloon with its payload of sensors and cameras can map the surface from 1000 feet up with great vistas.
    The problem here is that Mars has only 7 mbar of air pressure as compared to the Earths 1000 mbar of pressure. That’s enough air for aerobraking with the heatshield to slow down the craft, but not much air pressure to fill a parachute. The increased size of the parachute increases its mass and may not help in slowing down the craft. They would get more lift from a parachute if they turned the rocket motor upside down to fill it with hot exhaust gases and expanded outward.
    I believe that the technology needed here that is most dependable would be the same as for a lunar landing or a Mercury landing. Retrorockets may work best with more precision. Use the detachable balloon as an assist only.

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