Scientists Start Testing Model of Manned Mars Lander

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — The manned Mars mission project has entered a new phase, as Russia’s Keldysh Research Institute has started tests of the components and equipment of an interplanetary craft. They are now testing a model of the future Martian lander in a wind tunnel.

In an interview with Trud, project coordinator Vitaly Semyonov says six members will probably go on the Mars expedition: the commander, flight engineer, doctor, pilot, and two scientists. The experts’ plan is that the 500-ton craft will approach the planet and, at an altitude of 400 kilometers, orbit it. A descent platform will detach from the craft and will land without a parachute at an angle of 52 degrees, which means the planet’s surface will be used as much as possible for baking when entering the atmosphere. Brake flaps will open on the craft’s right and left. The rocket-shaped platform will enter the Martian atmosphere (which begins at an altitude of 120km) and descend to 30km. Then, rebounding from the atmosphere, it will rise to 60km only to start its descent again. At an altitude of 2km it will switch on its retro-engines. When the distance to the surface is 50 meters, the platform will hover for 50 seconds for the crew to select a landing zone before the craft touches down.

Three cosmonauts, the pilot and scientists, will control the landing. After a month, they will blast off using a rocket mounted on the descent module. Then the crew will dock with the spacecraft. The manned Earth-Mars-Earth mission will last about 730 days.

The 35-ton landing platform will be tested both on the ground and in space, but the scientists have already begun tests of a 1:200 scale model. Experiments are being conducted on a rig in the Keldysh Center, which almost fifty years ago carried out wind tunnel tests on the first satellite, which ushered in the space age in 1957.