Retropropulsion Illustraction
Artist’s illustration of a spacecraft using retropropulsion to steer. (NASA)

The heaviest vehicle to successfully land on Mars is the Curiosity Rover at 1 metric ton. Sending more ambitious robotic missions to the surface of Mars, and eventually humans, will require landed payload masses in the 5- to 20-ton range. A recent study was conducted to determine how to land more mass.

The study clarified how to make the best use of lift vector using optimal control techniques to identify strategies that can be used hypersonically across different conditions, vehicle properties, and altitudes to maximize the landed mass.