Hughes/Sandia - Pioneer Mars Orbiter (1974)

Graham1973

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Concerned about the cost of Viking 1 & 2, NASA looked at lower cost alternatives for the 1977 & 1979 Mars launch opportunities . One of the proposed missions was to use a modified version of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter to carry six RTG powered penetrators to Mars.

Once the spacecraft entered Mars orbit the penetrators would be launched using engines modified from those used by TOW missiles. The orbiter would then act to relay the signals from the penetrators to Earth. At the time of the linked study it was thought unlikely that any science payload would be fitted to the orbiter itself due to the characteristics of the relay orbit.

1. Hughes - Pioneer Mars Surface Penetrator Mission: Mission Analysis & Orbiter Design

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19740027142_1974027142.pdf

2. Sandia Laboratories - Mars Penetrator: Subsurface Science Mission

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19750004806_1975004806.pdf
 

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blackstar

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Penetrator missions are problematic. There's the problem of battery life, data relay, and the quality of the data. That's why they are rare.
 

Graham1973

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I'll agree that they are problematic, but they seem to have given this one a long hard look.

I've seen documentation discussing this idea for launch windows up until the early 1980's. I've attached a rather poor copy of a picture from a 1977 report by Ames Research Laboratory into the proposal of using the system for a 1981 launch.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19770025116_1977025116.pdf
 

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Michel Van

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the only US Penetrator mission was Deep Space 2 on Mars Polar lander 1999
the two were drop 2 minute before MPL enter the Mars atmosphere 3 December 1999
never heard again...
 

Graham1973

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Michel Van said:
the only US Penetrator mission was Deep Space 2 on Mars Polar lander 1999
the two were drop 2 minute before MPL enter the Mars atmosphere 3 December 1999
never heard again...

Well that's the problem with Penetrator missions. You have to get the entry conditions right, or you run the risk of them hitting too hard or at the wrong angle. Given the 'decimal conversion problem' with the '99 Mars missions, it is quite likely (Though with the lack of telemetry impossible to prove), they were dropped off at the wrong altitude.

The PMO '79 on the other hand was intended to release it's penetrators from orbit, not while attempting re-entry, which would have reduced that risk. What the planners in '77 were worried about was the penetrator hitting a rock at the wrong angle and breaking open.

I've found a few more details on what was planned for PMO'79.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930074311_1993074311.pdf

From that I've extracted the release schedule for the penetrators.
 

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Grey Havoc

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Michel Van said:
the only US Penetrator mission was Deep Space 2 on Mars Polar lander 1999
the two were drop 2 minute before MPL enter the Mars atmosphere 3 December 1999
never heard again...

They tried to do it on the cheap with that one. The 1974 concept would have had a much higher chance of success, even without being updated and expanded with available tech. IIRC, most of the 90's Deep Space series were considered failures or (optimistically perhaps) partial successes. "Faster, Better, Cheaper" at work. Should have been called "Far too many corners cut" instead.
 

blackstar

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There have been several more recent proposals for penetrator missions. The Russians had an early version of Luna-Glob that had 10 or more penetrators. That approach has been abandoned. The British had a proposal for a lunar penetrator mission.

Ralph Lorenz of APL is writing a history article on penetrator missions, actual and proposed.
 

Michel Van

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there several theories Wat happen to Deep Space 2:

- The two penetrators miss mars and are with Mars Polar lander in orbit around Mars
most consistent because the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has not found the crash MPL on Mars
- The Batteries in DS2 A B had discharged during flight to Mars
- The electronic equipment not surviving the impact with 19 g on pure rocky
the target is in South Mars that's highland with pure rock, not as north with sand plane
- the Desgin of Penetrators was faultily: the data cable ripped off from sensorpod as this bored too deep into Mars soil
My favor theory Wat went wrong

More here
"Report on the Loss of the Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 Missions"
 

Archibald

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That was ambitious and expensive and blue sky altogether. Crap: 2 shuttle launches and 2 Mars orbiters and 2 rovers and many penetrators. Plus ponies and unicorns, as they say. ::)
 

blackstar

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Maybe I've written this before (and if I have, who cares, since being repetitive has never been a crime on the internets), but I've always thought it weird and interesting that it took 17 years after Viking to go back to Mars. That's never quite made sense to me. The general explanation was that the disappointment over not finding life with the Viking missions, combined with their cost, destroyed any enthusiasm for further Mars exploration. But that's a general explanation. What happened specifically when people proposed Mars missions like the ones above? How did they get rejected?
 

Graham1973

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blackstar said:
Maybe I've written this before (and if I have, who cares, since being repetitive has never been a crime on the internets), but I've always thought it weird and interesting that it took 17 years after Viking to go back to Mars. That's never quite made sense to me. The general explanation was that the disappointment over not finding life with the Viking missions, combined with their cost, destroyed any enthusiasm for further Mars exploration. But that's a general explanation. What happened specifically when people proposed Mars missions like the ones above? How did they get rejected?

I've got no idea. There seem to be two threads in the documents I have seen, one missions using Viking hardware either new built or the modified flight spare to carry out further exploration. The other is using the Pioneer Venus architecture to explore Mars but it never seems to have gelled into anything.

The only 'popular press' article I have from the 'black gap' is something by Richard C. Hoagland ( :eek: ) from 1977 arguing that any future Mars mission to look for life is misdirected because the Viking results are at best ambiguous(sic) and that future missions should be looking for places to land manned expeditions.
 

Archibald

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Briefly: I think that in the 80's the JPL had interest only for - unrealistic - rovers** and MSR missions. That corresponds to their well-known love for ambitious, massive and expensive missions. And since they enjoyed a complete monopoly over NASA planetary program...

** In the 80's the JPL had a lot of rover projects that were to bring Mars samples to a return ship from a wide range of different locations. Yet these rovers were quite unrealistic: the JPL planned things like 1000 km traverses in 3 years ! The comparable MSL is baselined at a mere 20 km...
 

blackstar

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Archibald said:
** In the 80's the JPL had a lot of rover projects that were to bring Mars samples to a return ship from a wide range of different locations. Yet these rovers were quite unrealistic: the JPL planned things like 1000 km traverses in 3 years ! The comparable MSL is baselined at a mere 20 km...

Although that is a huge difference, I would point out that MSL is primarily an instrument platform that roves. Rovers can cover greater distance if that is their goal, instead of stopping and examining stuff.
 

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Graham1973 said:
The only 'popular press' article I have from the 'black gap' is something by Richard C. Hoagland ( :eek: ) from 1977 arguing that any future Mars mission to look for life is misdirected because the Viking results are at best ambiguous(sic) and that future missions should be looking for places to land manned expeditions.

...ISTR there's something akin to "Godwin's Law", where citing Hoaxland as a valid source in a serious thread about life on other planets not only kills the thread, but brands the one who used the cite as either a ~CT-class troll, or someone who needs a refresher course on how to determine whether a source has any validity to it prior to using them/it as a cite source.

...On a side note, I used to work with Unca Walter Cronkite's daughter, Kathy, back when I was in Radio and TV. One day, when we started airing informercials between 3 and 5am, we had to tape a downlink of a 30-minute "infoteaser" for Hoaxland's series on that bogus face at Cydonia. Kathy happened to drop by engineering at the time, and while we were talking the announcer started babbling about how Hoaxland was supposed to have been "an adviser and close personal friend of Walter Cronkite during the CBS coverage of the Apollo Moon Landings". Kathy heard this, sighed, shook her head, and said the following:

You know, daddy wishes Hoaxland (sic) would quit claiming he was an adviser to him on his Apollo coverage. He was nothing but a damn gofer, and a really creepy guy too. Daddy wishes he'd just shut up and go crawl back under his rock with the rest of the UFO freaks, because it embarrasses him every time Richard even mentions Daddy's name!

...Ah well. I figure one or two things will happen with Hoaxland and his bullshit: either he'll finally drop dead from those clogged arteries - what is it now? 11 total steynts and bypasses? - or he'll give up on Mars in light of all the evidence that's been against him and go pick on a planet nobody cares about anymore: Venus.

Oh. Right. That's Brad Guth's turf. God/Yahweh/Roddenberry help us all :eek: :-[ :'(
 

RanulfC

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OM;
I too recall reading "popular press" articles by Hoagland during the late 70's/early 80's before he went crazy over the "face" which were actually some pretty good stuff. The writing was terrible, but the facts were there and he presented some good information and ideas. So is there a "Modified Godwin's Law" that mentions being able to "cite" a source from periods BEFORE they went BSC? :)

As to Hoagland's continued use of his being an "adviser" to Cronkite, I KNOW Walter wasn't the kind of person to publicly "slap-down" Hoagland but I truly wish he would have, since it lets Hoagland continue to get away with this gunk.

And lay off the "Planet of Love" there buddy! There are some of us out here that feel NO planet should be left out of being cared about! :)

I can't start a discussion on Venus exploration/colonization anywhere on the internet without Brad "dropping-by" for spam sessions, which means I have to deal with him ALONG with the "Mars-Firsters, Mars-Direct'ers, and Zubrin worshipers" I've already got swarming me :)

On a "side-note" (and certainly off-topic but I find amusing so I'll share :) ) of my own I had begun some preliminary work on adapting the proposed "Red-Dragon" (a version of the Space-X Dragon capsule proposed as Mars science equipment lander) to something I was tentatively titling "Green-Dragon" ('cause the only two "colors" I could find listed as "associated" with Venus was Red, which was already taken and Green :) ) for a Venus floater-probe mission when I went to the Nasaspaceflight forums to take a 'break'....

And found my "name" had been used already for a proposal for an Earth Orbital "Dragon" greenhouse! Argghh!

Ain't life just grand at times? ;)

Randy
 

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Removed a long and rambling post by OM which appeared to be nasty to several other forum members.
 

OM

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PaulMM said:
Removed a long and rambling post by OM which appeared to be nasty to several other forum members.

...Valid points were raised. I would have edited this if asked.

[shakes head in dismay]
 

Archibald

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35cb25007e1f2cbfeee504c9418ff154.jpg
 

Graham1973

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The reports Hughes - Pioneer Mars Surface Penetrator Mission: Mission Analysis & Orbiter Design & Sandia Laboratories - Mars Penetrator: Subsurface Science Mission are attached to this posting. I'm still looking for the third report covering the companion mission.
 

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Archibald

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What is truly amazing is that the penetrator technology was passed to NASA by the Sandia nuclear lab; which seemingly had developed it to monitor China nuclear tests at Lop Nur in the Gobi desert, after their first blast in October 1964.

http://aviationtrivia.blogspot.com/2010/02/last-month-i-had-posted-about-steel.html

These penetrators were dropped from ROCAF U-2s flying 80 000 feet high in May 1967 but did not worked.

They tried a different approach, flying the same sensors on a big pallet dropped out of a ROCAF C-130... that flew from Takhli, Thailand, to Lop Nur and back at tree tops for ten hours and 4000 miles !

From Lop Nur to Mars !
 

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