guest blogger john hare
The Lunar Lander Challenge contest has really heated up in the last week. One discussion on arocket has been, “what is the next step?” Among the suggestions are flying both legs of the level two without refueling and an accurate landing contest without GPS. Since everybody already knows that I think pumps are a Real Good Idea for future development, I will throw one out there for getting landing accuracy in unknown terrain without GPS.
Modern electronics are tougher and smarter than ever before. A very small modern probe could hard land on the moon and still return data if properly designed. This wouldn’t have been possible in the 1960s. My thought is that a landing vehicle could carry a dozen or so hard landing probes with cameras linked back to the lander, and a transponder activated on impact. The probes are released a minute or so before landing when the lander is already braking.
The camera images while the probes are falling are relayed to the lander and then onto the operators on Earth. A suitable landing spot is selected from the images of multiple probes and sent to the lander. When the probes impact and the transponders activate, the onboard computer is getting it’s “land here” order based on vectors from surviving probes. If three or more survive, altitude and landing spot can be handled in a similar manner as the three awesome LLC teams that have already flown GPS guided vehicles to landing pads.
The probes will have to survive an impact of several hundred m/s which is a bit worse than the smart artillery shells under development. The landing spot decision will have to be made in about 10-15 seconds between receipt of imaging and the time the lander absolutely must have the information.
For an LLC3 competition, non GPS landers could be required to land on an unsurveyed pad out of their sight with a time delay on telemetry. Could be interesting.