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Paolo
'Red Dragon' Mission Mulled as Cheap Search for Mars Life
any opinion on this? would it really make sense adapting a manned spaceship to unmanned Mars landing? I am skeptical...

if replying, please remember forum guideline 1.5
AndyG
...and 1.2, and 1.3!

I think the best thing we can say is that more affordable delivery costs are a great thing, and - if Musk's vision is as good as his demonstrations to date - then I suspect he'd get nothing but thumbs-up from all of us here.

Andy
pospa
Since payload capacity of Red Dragon to Mars surface would be couple of tons I see this concept quite suitable for MSR mission.
It could IMHO merge at least two separate missions: Sample Caching Rover and Sample Return Lander.
Don't you think?
ugordan
QUOTE (pospa @ Aug 7 2011, 02:16 PM) *
Since payload capacity of Red Dragon to Mars surface would be couple of tons I see this concept quite suitable for MSR mission.

Payload mass (i.e. launch vehicle performance) to Mars will be just one factor in MSR. A much bigger cost will be the actual spacecraft, as is usually the case. I don't see Red Dragon helping here. If a large mass is needed there, just using Falcon Heavy with a dedicated spacecraft would make more sense (coincidentally, MSR with one spacecraft was something Elon Musk suggested would be enabled by the Falcon Heavy).

This concept of using Dragon to land something on Mars is interesting but it does have drawbacks. A big chunk of the landed mass would be Dragon itself and its (for unmanned landers) unnecessary pressurized structure. It also remains to be seen if a Dragon could actually perform a successful EDL in the first place.
Greg Hullender
Treating Dragon strictly as an unmanned vehicle, it's hard to see what it brings to the party. Unless they seriously thought they could easily adjust the design to let it land on Mars. But if it were that easy, would MSL being using the sky crane?

--Greg
ElkGroveDan
My recollection from the earliest days of SpaceX has been that the Dragon has always been intended as a multi-use capsule for cargo, science payloads, and ultimately self-aware biological payloads. I'm not going to get into the myriad ways a constant like the Dragon can save costs, but in many ways it is like the common automobile chassis that many manufacturers have successful used on different vehicles over the years (especially trucks), or the standard motherboard and BUS arrangement of modern PCs that has allowed for an explosion of critical innovation around a reliable manufacturing platform. That the Dragon is being considered as a vessel for unmanned Mars missions should come as no surprise then, since the origins of Elon Musk's interest in space are rooted in a desire to explore Mars.

(Have I mentioned, that I really like this guy and what he's doing? rolleyes.gif )
djellison
QUOTE (ugordan @ Aug 7 2011, 08:37 AM) *
A big chunk of the landed mass would be Dragon itself and its (for unmanned landers) unnecessary pressurized structure.


The point being, when the LV can lift so much weight - then you can get away with 'wasted' mass.

The thing we have the least of, is money. If a system like this gets instrumentation onto the ground at <$ than, say, 'traditional' spacecraft design and LV's.... then it's a win.
Jim from NSF.com
Full inline quote removed - ADMIN


No, the capsule is still a fixed size and it is a pressurized structure meant to contain personnel and loose cargo. It is ill suited to contain a rover or instrument suite such as Phoenix. All previous landers jettisoned their heat shield to expose the spacecraft, Dragon can't do this and if it could, it would expose a sealed vessel.
ElkGroveDan
The Viking landers and MSL wouldn't fit in it either so it must be a bad idea. Clearly Musk and all of his engineers have lost their minds. With that kind of thinking they'll never get any rocket off the ground.
djellison
QUOTE (Jim from NSF.com @ Aug 7 2011, 06:27 PM) *
No, the capsule is still a fixed size and it is a pressurized structure meant to contain personnel and loose cargo. It is ill suited to contain a rover or instrument suite such as Phoenix. All previous landers jettisoned their heat shield to expose the spacecraft, Dragon can't do this and if it could, it would expose a sealed vessel.



You're thinking 'how would dragon deliver Phoenix'. That's not the goal here. It's a change in philosophy.

The actual question is - what science could you do with a Dragon on the surface.

One scientist, at least, clearly thinks there is plenty that can be done.

I can see massive potential for Dragon as depicted in that video - and even more with comparatively simple modifications to the vehicle structure.
Jim from NSF.com
QUOTE (djellison @ Aug 7 2011, 11:20 PM) *
You're thinking 'how would dragon deliver Phoenix'.


No, I was thinking how Dragon could deliver Phoenix's instruments.
Scientists will compromise everything for a free ride.
There are no simple mods to the structure. Look at the recovered Dragon, the only place for instruments is in the interior. They would have extend through the two hatches.

Any other mods and it is not a Dragon anymore.
djellison
QUOTE (Jim from NSF.com @ Aug 8 2011, 09:37 AM) *
No, I was thinking how Dragon could deliver Phoenix's instruments.


Again - still the wrong mind set.


Jim from NSF.com
QUOTE (djellison @ Aug 8 2011, 01:55 PM) *
Again - still the wrong mind set.


Huh? So the "right mind set" is not to deliver instruments and just land a Dragon capsule.

Ok, I will go back to lurking and let the spacecraft "experts" state their "qualified" opinions based on their experience this field.
djellison
QUOTE (Jim from NSF.com @ Aug 8 2011, 01:16 PM) *
Huh? So the "right mind set" is not to deliver instruments and just land a Dragon capsule.


Very very obviously, that is NOT the point I was making. You really are very very determined to start an argument rather than have a discussion, aren't you.


QUOTE
Ok, I will go back to lurking


Please do.
ZLD
Just out of curiosity, are there any obvious applications of the Dragon module? I can envision some instruments getting deployed through the hatch in some manner. I'm having trouble thinking of any other method of delivering instruments with the craft without serious modification though. Also, very large parachutes will be necessary to slow the craft; is there anything in the works for a booster module to help slow during decent? I really like this idea and I think it shows, if not just for good PR from the science community, an actual interest from SpaceX in delivering more than just people to space.
nprev
If I'm not mistaken, I think that Red Dragon would probably utilize a combination of parachutes & a powered descent system of some sort.

It could well be a nice landing system for Mars, actually. I could see a couple of intermediate-sized rovers popping out of the hatch down a ramp...followed by an antenna. You could stuff all kinds of DTE comm gear, meteorological instruments, etc. in all that space as well!
ZLD
QUOTE
a couple of intermediate-sized rovers popping out of the hatch down a ramp


That was actually my first thought as well; possibly even updated Pathfinder rovers, to minimize costs.
Jim from NSF.com
QUOTE (djellison @ Aug 8 2011, 04:35 PM) *
Very very obviously, that is NOT the point I was making. You really are very very determined to start an argument rather than have a discussion, aren't you.


Then state your point because you haven't revealed andI know my mind set and it is not wrong.

The Dragon is a poor design to deliver any but people and goods. Same thing would apply to the Orion capsule or CST-100. They are structurally wrong for other tasks. They are designed to contain their payloads.

Driving rovers out the hatch is ludicrous, the hatch is small and high off the surface.
nprev
Jim, one point you have to remember about Red Dragon and SpaceX's general mindset: The objective here is to demonstrate the ability to land, uh, biological things on Mars someday. Their vested interest is to develop this capability. Test flight(s) towards that end would be a waste to do using mass simulators; why not take even somewhat kludged-together instrumentation & do some science?

"Kludged-together" might well be an unjust characterization, actually. I don't think that the constraints introduced by preserving the design of the root Dragon system in Red Dragon are insurmountable barriers at all to truly innovative thinking & design.
ZLD
QUOTE
Driving rovers out the hatch is ludicrous, the hatch is small and high off the surface.


Hastiness aside, I think some type of inflatable ramp could be used such as those found on airplanes like this one, sans the mouthbreathers of course.
djellison
QUOTE (Jim from NSF.com @ Aug 8 2011, 05:12 PM) *
Driving rovers out the hatch is ludicrous, the hatch is small and high off the surface.


And yet again, Jim, you argue against something I've not proposed. I didn't propose delivering PHX's instruments. I didn't propose driving a rover out of the door. Yet you decided to have an argument with me about such things.

I have made my point - and made it clearly. The issue is not how to deliver payloads previously sent to Mars with Dragon. It's what payloads could you send to Mars with Dragon. You continue to ignore that simple statement and start arguments over things I've not said or even inferred.

ADMIN MODE:
Consider this a public administrator warning Jim - stop trying to start arguments with people. This has been an ongoing problem with you over the years. Your attitude continues to be mutually exclusive with that of constructive discussion. Your behavior is confrontational and rude, and this is not just my opinion, but that of many of the admin team and other UMSF members as well.

Might I suggest you do as promised and go back to lurking. Further posting in this manor, and we'll simply suspend your account.

Again.
centsworth_II
QUOTE (ZLD @ Aug 8 2011, 08:06 PM) *
...some type of inflatable ramp...
And the rover would not have to drive down the ramp, it could be folded into a ball like a MER within its balloon cocoon. The Balled rover could roll down the ramp and then unfold and stand up.
nprev
Yep; many ways to skin that cat. You could even push it out the hatch & let it bounce around.

And that's just off the tops of the heads of us amateurs. Pros could do things that would make our eyes pop out, surely.
centsworth_II
QUOTE (nprev @ Aug 8 2011, 09:30 PM) *
...You could even push it out the hatch & let it bounce around....
Right! Forget about the ramp.
ZLD
Kind of like the tumbleweed idea thats been floated for a while now? That could definitely be interesting, especially if they packed the entire craft full (10 m^3 worth!).
centsworth_II
QUOTE (ZLD @ Aug 8 2011, 08:49 PM) *
Kind of like the tumbleweed idea...
I'd say this proposal is ready to write up! laugh.gif
DDAVIS
I would have cameras at least pointing out the windows and recording full frame rate HD video of the landing and the later view outside under changing lighting conditions. If possible a group of cameras would be at the apex of the lander exposed after landing by a movable cover to provide a panoramic view of the landscape and skies. I imagine several dedicated panorama cameras pre set to make a 360 degree mosaic. A fisheye all sky camera with some tilt capability would be above the middle of this camera 'ring' to image clouds, etc at variable resolution. 4K resolution color 'all skies' would be obtained in time lapse mode to show the sky and a 'slice' of the scenery. Modern planetarium video theaters can reproduce such a view in a dome projection for specialist and general audiences. Such sequences would take time to send back, but that's what I would try to do.
djellison
You sound like Mike Wolff. In a good way.

Top hatch could become deployables for cameras, comms and power.

A 4k sky-cam is more of a downlink constraint rather than a enabled-by-dragon constraint though.
ElkGroveDan
Think of the weather station and seismometer you could install with that much space and payload.
Astro0
Of course thinking outside the box or in this case the capsule, who says that anything needs to be deployed from "inside" once you've landed.

With, I would think, small modifications to the vehicle, you could house a series of deployable containers that are released from the main fuselage during the last part of the descent. Possibly released through opened hatches or ejected compartments (like segments of an orange).
These individual components could then parchute (or parachute+bounce) to the surface over a wider area.

Think of the way that MSL's backshell and heatshield will drop off those weights during descent.

I imagine that during a parchute+powered descent by Red Dragon the descent velocity would be relatively low at the time you would 'deploy' these science containers which could house remote sensing gear, rovers, tumbleweeds etc and all of their data relayed back (intranet-style) to the main descent vehicle for store/relay back to Earth. The main lander has a stack of cameras and carries the prime communication gear (as backup, smaller UHF links on the components for bent-pipe relay via orbiting spacecraft).

Just about anything is possible here, after all, most of this conversation is based on a capsule that hasn't been finally designed or built to do the job of going to and landing on Mars. All we have is an idea, a video (so I'm told), a graphic and thankfully a whole bunch of people here with some imagination and an interest in exploration. wink.gif
ugordan
QUOTE (ZLD @ Aug 9 2011, 01:44 AM) *
Also, very large parachutes will be necessary to slow the craft; is there anything in the works for a booster module to help slow during decent?

The abort thrusters now being developed for uh... not-unmanned flights are envisioned to (at some point later) also serve for propulsive landing capability. See this video at about 1 minute mark. I'd think the parachutes would be pretty useless on Mars for such a big capsule (over 4 tons dry mass without propellant load) and propulsive landing would be the primary means of shedding the remaining velocity after entry. I'm not sure they'd deploy correctly in the first place, IIRC, they'd deploy at supersonic speeds on Mars and they deploy subsonically on Earth, after two drogues stabilize the capsule.
pospa
We are talking about Discovery category mission, right?
It should/must be cheap.
It's nice that many of you are suggesting minirovers and tumbleweeds rolling or jumping out of Red Dragon (RD), but why not just stick to that concept NASA Ames if thinking about.
RD will stay mostly in the standard shape or configuration as it will be that time for other unmanned missions in order to keep lander price low as much as possible.
Number of external moving tool(s)/instrument(s) would be very limited just to the sampling acquisition set -> 1 m drilling suite + camera(s) on the robotic arm sticking out of standard side hatch.
Then all other lab instruments (many and heavy) can do a lot of science by analysing samples inside of the RD capsule.
Of course meteo instruments and other cameras can be deployed through top hatch together with Ultraflex solar arrays and antena(s).
And perhaps some cheap seismometric penetrator(s) could be simply ejected during EDL phase as well.
Drkskywxlt
Although I think this proposed proposal (how's that for redundancy?) would certainly win high marks in the "cool and awesome" category that would make it great for EPO, it has to compete against the other Discovery proposals in two areas: science return and risk.

Mounting cameras on the outside to just take some panoramic pictures certainly won't scientifically wow the review panel. Adding some seismic sensors and weather sensors might make it more interesting, but then basically you've made Red Dragon into a very heavy version of GEMS. Which brings me to:

Risk. GEMS apparently won high marks for being low-risk. Although I'm sure Elon Musk and SpaceX would argue that Red Dragon would not be high risk, I think it would be very hard to convince a risk averse NASA review panel of that fact. Any new technology is always viewed as riskier than proven technology. I think the Red Dragon team would really have to wow the review panel with some amazing science to overcome their risk.

Chris McKay and Elon Musk are smart guys though, so I'm sure they could pull it off if anybody could. I'd be rooting for it smile.gif
algorimancer
QUOTE (pospa @ Aug 9 2011, 05:09 AM) *
...why not just stick to that concept NASA Ames if thinking about.

Possibly because, after experiencing Pathfinder and MER in comparison to Viking and Phoenix, we've learned to appreciate the dramatic returns a rover can deliver. It need not be a very large rover. I could easily envision a pneumatic "mortar" that rapidly pops several small rovers through the hatch which could explore the local region at least out to line-of-sight (hundreds of meters to kilometers, given a tall antenna), communicating with the dragon vehicle as with Pathfinder. Really not that difficult to do.
Mongo
For a Mars mission, there are two kinds of distance to be traversed. All the previous missions that moved beyond the immediate landing spot have been rovers that moved to various locations on the Martian surface. But a mission could also take samples vertically, by means of a drill.

So if a drill could be extended out of the main hatch, it might be able to extract cores at various depths to be analysed by the huge mass of lab instrumentation on board the Red Dragon. The mission would examine a smaller number of samples, but with far greater depth of analysis.

I am thinking along the lines of the NASA Ames proposal, which does seem to me to have the greatest scientific return using Red Dragon.
djellison
It's not out of the question that the vehicle could hold in reserve enough fuel to hop to a different site as well.

Mongo
I had a wild idea, does anybody know if it is technically feasible?

Instead of extending a drill mechanism out of the main hatch, would it be possible to simply drill straight down right through the heat shield? This drill would, after all, be built to drill through solid rock, and I believe that the material that heat shields are made of is designed for heat resistance/ablation, not rock-like strength, in fact they are quite fragile as I understand it. Or alternatively, perhaps the shield could incorporate a small 'cap' directly below the base of the internal drill mechanism, that can be removed upon landing. (It might be simpler and less problematic to simply drill right through the heat shield, though.)

If the drill is not required to be physically extended out the main hatch by some kind of robot arm, the mass and volume saved by not including the required arm mechanism could be used for additional instrumentation, not to mention that it would be a lot easier to extract the drill cores to the interior of the Red Dragon.
ZLD
Drilling through the bottom is a possibility, as its a low density carbon material but I'm not sure about placing a hatch on the underside of the craft. At that point, you are adding a lot more cost in redesigning and testing for the capsule.

Another idea they could do, is land multiple capsules at various locations around the planet that have large, steerable, parabolic antennas, similar to that on Galileo/TDRS, that would be deployed out of the top. Could be useful as a second relay station in space, or maybe radio telescope investigations with more distance from the Sun, or possibly with some magic, interferometric observations between here and there.

Including a mortar loaded with something similar to MetNet impactors could also be interesting though, shooting them out in different directions during descent.

Fran Ontanaya
It may be robust enough to survive a winter buried in CO2. Then a snow rover could just roll out the hatch. laugh.gif
lyford
Delurking in this thread just long enough to say HOORAY that other folks are fans of the Tumbleweed rovers! We may get rolling yet!
MarsInMyLifetime
I'm new to UMSF, but a long-time advocate of robotic missions. The premise of this thread is not unlike the problem handed down to American engineers and scientists right after WWII: "Folks, we have a bunch of V-2s here. What kind of science can you do with something made for an entirely different use?" First steps were crude, but the variety of science eventually done was outstanding--for a war missile.

I'd modify some things in the uncrewed version of Dragon to make it more Mars-mission worthy: replace the heat shield with a Viking-class conic shield (physics and success of the design dictate using what works); cut away the heat shield for landing--no need to soft land that mass; remove the Earth-style parachutes from the lower bays and instead have an MSL-class parachute system in a new nose bay filling the formerly empty nose cone volume; remove the vestigial forward hatch and ISS docking system and use the space to store and unfold 6 round solar arrays for power akin to those on Beagle (the central platform would hold antennae and instruments like mastcams and lidar); replace the pressure vessel sides with ribs to reduce some weight without compromising the aeroshell; use the landing leg tubes to guide sampling drills on telescoping shafts to the surface; with the heat shield gone, open a trap door hinged on one side as a ramp to the surface for mobile exploration tools (moles, Pathfinder-class bots, or even tumbleweeds if you must); utilize the deployed sensor bay as a weather station and lower-level camera platform. And the remaining space (of which there is still plenty in that huge hull) could be for what I think is the most valuable primary payload: testing the various IRSU technologies for water and fuel production out of the atmosphere.

I recall, though, that the V-2 was replaced by cheaper, more efficient sounding rockets for all the science roles that it pioneered, and I suspect this modified Dragon, even if gifted on the science community, might quickly go the same route!
--
Don (MarsInMyLifetime)
ugordan
QUOTE (MarsInMyLifetime @ Aug 10 2011, 08:08 AM) *
I'm new to UMSF, but a long-time advocate of robotic missions. The premise of this thread is not unlike the problem handed down to American engineers and replace the heat shield with a Viking-class conic shield (physics and success of the design dictate using what works);

Why? What's to say that's the only design that works? Even circumlunar flight reentries were proven out by different capsule shapes, both Apollo and Zond (which Dragon is more similar to).

I don't think either replacing the hatch or modifying the pressurized hull structure would work. You're approaching a lander development program and not reusing the Dragon design so the whole point gets lost. That becomes a Dragon only by name, besides what's the point in reducing the mass if Falcon Heavy can launch more mass to Mars than any useful scientific payload you can put inside Red Dragon?
MarsInMyLifetime
QUOTE (ugordan @ Aug 10 2011, 02:06 AM) *
...You're approaching a lander development program and not reusing the Dragon design so the whole point gets lost. That becomes a Dragon only by name, besides what's the point in reducing the mass if Falcon Heavy can launch more mass to Mars than any useful scientific payload you can put inside Red Dragon?

Granted, but once that mass gets to the vicinity of Mars, the devil is in getting it to the surface successfully. These were just changes I needed to envision for the EDL preliminaries in order to make the game work for me. I'm on the surface now, somehow, and in the payload mode. I'll still stick with the IRSU demonstration packages for initial payloads--methane generation first, then water purification. I'd still put station-keeping science (mastcam, weather sensors, and comms) on the top in place of the docking adapter.
Jim from NSF.com
QUOTE (Astro0 @ Aug 9 2011, 02:39 AM) *
OfJust about anything is possible here, after all, most of this conversation is based on a capsule that hasn't been finally designed or built to do the job of going to and landing on Mars. All we have is an idea, a video (so I'm told), a graphic and thankfully a whole bunch of people here with some imagination and an interest in exploration. wink.gif

No, it has been designed and built. Red Dragon is the existing Dragon
Jim from NSF.com
QUOTE (djellison @ Aug 8 2011, 08:21 PM) *
And yet again, Jim, you argue against something I've not proposed. I didn't propose delivering PHX's instruments. I didn't propose driving a rover out of the door. Yet you decided to have an argument with me about such things.

I have made my point - and made it clearly. The issue is not how to deliver payloads previously sent to Mars with Dragon. It's what payloads could you send to Mars with Dragon. You continue to ignore that simple statement and start arguments over things I've not said or even inferred.



I am going to blow my wad on this. I am not talking about previous instruments but any type of one. Dragon is a bad platform. The ideas since your post demonstrate that it is. Most are non viable.

Ideas modifying the structure are non starters. It isn't a dragon the. Opening hatches, non starter again, the avionics are not designed for vacuum.

There is out of the box thinking and then there is off the reservation which most of the ideas are.
Fran Ontanaya
Maybe it could orbit Mars, mapping with a big gamma ray spectrometer, then do the landing demo and use some extra instruments. The GRS could collect data about the capsule shielding too.
ZLD
QUOTE (Jim from NSF.com @ Aug 11 2011, 06:41 PM) *
]There is out of the box thinking and then there is off the reservation which most of the ideas are.


Jim, I honestly don't understand your line of thought here. How is using the Dragon module an impossibility for an unmanned mission to Mars? Are you a qualified engineer, able to determine this as a certainty? As I've read, most of the ideas tossed around here, have been at least somewhat reasonable for inclusion on a Red Dragon mission. Would you care to address why they are unreasonable on an individual basis, rather that offering a blanket statement? It just seems you are opposed to the idea of the mission without offering any further thought or discussion on the matter.
Greg Hullender
I hate to appear to agree with Jim, but I'm just not seeing how the thing can land on Mars at all without big modifications. Is there a paper where some of the Dragon engineers worked through this?

--Greg
stevesliva
On the other hand, NASA also has a history of designing a platform and then figuring out what science might fit it, too. Not so much on the unmanned side, which might be why it seems to radical to propose a mission w/o mission objectives.
ElkGroveDan
QUOTE (ZLD @ Aug 11 2011, 07:43 PM) *
Jim, I honestly don't understand your line of thought here. How is using the Dragon module an impossibility for an unmanned mission to Mars? Are you a qualified engineer, able to determine this as a certainty?

No Jim isn't an engineer. But he does have conflict of interest issues in opposing SpaceX and the Falcon rockets. So take his criticisms at face value.
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