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Rob Manning and Landing on Mars

Artist's concept of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) at Mars

Air Date: 04/14/2015
Run Time: 39:56

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  • Rob Manning, Chief Engineer, Mars Exploration Directorate, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Topics: Titan, Saturn's moons, commercial spaceflight, Jupiter's moons, Io, Future Mission Concepts, Callisto, human spaceflight, Triton, Planetary Radio, explaining technology, Neptune's moons, Mars, International Space Station, Bill Nye

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Landing on Mars is hard, and the bigger you are, the harder it gets. Rob Manning returns to tell us about one of NASA’s best hopes for getting much bigger spacecraft down there—spacecraft that may one day carry humans. Emily Lakdawalla quizzes Mat on the atmospheres of moons. Bill Nye discovers that everyone is talking about getting to Mars. Bruce and Mat take a virtual trip down under, and offer another signed copy of Jim Bell’s “The Interstellar Age” in the space trivia contest.

Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator

Mat Kaplan

Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator
The six-meter Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) is spin tested in the Jet Propulsion Lab’s high bay clean room.
Artist's concept of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) at Mars


Artist's concept of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) at Mars

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Trivia Contest

This week's prize is Jim Bell’s excellent book, "The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission," signed by the author.

This week's question:

What is the orbital period of Neptune’s moon Triton?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Tuesday, April 21st at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What are trans-Neptunian objects in a 2:1 orbital relationship with Neptune called? (2 orbits of Neptune, 1 orbit of the body)


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

What constellation appears on the flags of Australia and New Zealand? (Come on Southern Hemisphere patriots and fans!)


The constellation on the flags of Australia and New Zealand is the Southern Cross or Crux.


No trivia contest spoilers please!

moon advocate : 04/15/2015 01:22 CDT

why not go to the moon first? C'mon people it's right over there... pretty much made of spaceship parts... anyone? Guys! you can't be bored of it already! all you did was have a picnic!

Arbitrary: 04/15/2015 03:05 CDT

Don't worry, moon advocate, humans will return to the Moon before the first landing on Mars. That is dictated by reality regardless who wants what. I think that the money and time for an orbiting mission is better spent on the first human landing mission. And we'd learn more about having people on Mars by landing on the Moon, than by orbiting Mars. While the Mars spaceship is being developed and constructed in LEO, heavy payloads could be pre deployed on Mars during several years. The nuclear power plant, the atmospheric rocket fuel factory, maybe a water extraction plant, two ascent vehicles, two habitats and a human transportation rover would be pre deployed as a minimum, an undertaking larger than the sum of all missions to Mars thus far already before the humans arrive (using maybe 5 SLS). For safety, the crew should land in as small a capsule as possible, something in size between the Soyuz and Dragon, leaving the spaceship in orbit until the return flight. If the surface habitats fail, they could ascend and the rest would be an orbiting mission. A landing mission should of course visit Phobos or Deimos too befor return to Earth, they orbit Mars anyway. I think it is great that NASA in fact is working on a human mission to Mars. LDSD, suitport, Athlete (mobile Mars habitat) , the ISRU-oxygen experiment on the Mars2020 rover are all great progresses for humans to Mars.

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