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This was the first Mars lander designed after the bombshell from Mariner 4 that astronomers had drastically over-estimated how dense the Martian atmosphere was. They had figured it was a useful 85 hectopascals hPain reality it was an almost worthless 6 hPa just slightly better than a vacuum.
By way of comparison Terra's atmospheric pressure at sea level is hPa.
The poor prior design that was rendered obsolete by the low atmospheric pressure was the Aeronutronic MEM The low atmospheric blow Mariner 4 dealt to the scientist was just the cherry on top of the sundae.
Much more serious was the photographs. The scientists knew there could be no chance of images of scantily-clad Barsoomian princessesbut they were hopefull there would be some lakes and maybe even a canal or two.
But nothing but a bunch of freaking craters?
The scientists got a sinking feeling in their stomachs, as they could almost see the Mars exploration program go swirling down the toilet right before their very eyes. Once the taxpayers saw these photos the NASA tax dollars would dry up.
Mars looks like the freaking moon, for cryin' out loud!
And NASA has already been to the moon. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. No need to go to Moon part deux. Sadly, they were right. As I write this it is fifty years later and the movie The Martian is still science fiction, not a documentary.
That furry "whumph" noise you hear is RocketCat doing a facepalm.
Given the pathetic whisp of Martian atmosphere, NAR went with a classic gum-drop shape much like the Apollo command module for aerobraking purposes. For one thing all the expertise obtained from Apollo could be leveraged. Plus there was Terra's atmosphere conveniently located for heat shield test purposes.
Though I did read a recent report suggesting that even with the gum-drop design the Martian atmosphere is not up to the task of aerobraking the MEM before it splats into the ground at hypersonic velocities.
The report suggested that entirely new technologies are needed. In a genius move, NAR made the design modular. If you needed a lean and mean mission, you could remove some internal compartments, ascent propellant, and surface supplies to get the total lander mass down to 30 metric tons.
Or you could max it out. Or anything in between. The price of a low mass lander is that it could only support two crew for four days, and the mothership had to be in a low circular Mars orbit for both departure and return to the mother.Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an award-winning, nonprofit water education program and publisher.
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The RS 10 from Star Born by Andre Norton, Artwork by Dean kaja-net.comg from the size of the people, the ship is approximately meters high ( feet).