NASA Tests Ways to Crash Land on Mars

We’re testing a new way of landing on Mars… by crashing into its surface. The Simplified High Impact Energy Landing Device (SHIELD) is a lander concept being tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It could one day provide a new way for low-cost missions to land on Mars. Rather than rely on parachutes or retrorockets, SHIELD would include a collapsible, accordion-like base to absorb the energy of a landing. A full-size prototype of the base was tested on Aug. 12, 2022. The prototype was hurled at the ground from the top of a nearly 90-foot-tall (27-meter-tall) drop tower at JPL. A steel plate ensured the impact was even harder than what would be experienced on Mars. The design worked: After crushing against the steel plate at 110 mph (177 kph), several electronic components inside the SHIELD prototype, including a smartphone, survived the impact. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/California Academy of Sciences


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