Elon Musk says SpaceX's Dragon capsule won't use propulsive landing technique to touch...

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk during a speaking engagement at the International Space Station Research and Development conference on Wednesday provided an update on his company’s plan to send humans to Mars.

Musk’s initial plan was to outfit its Dragon capsule with thrusters and landing legs that could be used to gently touch down on solid ground. The technique, known as propulsive landing, is being scrapped partially due to the fact that it would take a “tremendous” amount of effort to qualify it for safety for crew transport.

Musk later said on Twitter than they still plan to do powered landings on Mars albeit with a vastly larger ship.

At the conference, Musk said he’s pretty confident that there’s a far better approach which is what the next generation of SpaceX rockets and spacecraft will strive for. Unfortunately, he didn’t delve into what the new approach might be or provide an updated timeline of when he plans to send a craft to Mars.

Dragon capsules will still feature the aforementioned thrusters albeit for emergency purposes only. For the foreseeable future, it seems as though the capsules will continue to reply on parachutes for landings.

Musk also downplayed expectations for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, the rocket is still expected to conduct its maiden voyage sometime this year.

Musk said he would consider the flight a success if the rocket gets off the launch pad without burning it up. That said, the rocket likely won’t reach orbit with Musk adding that those whose payloads are slated to fly on the first flight should be considered “brave.”

Musk said he may have more details to share on SpaceX’s Mars colonization plans at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, in September.

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"Musk later said on Twitter than they still plan to do powered landings on Mars albeit with a vastly larger ship."

Ridiculous. The "guy" can't even land a control pod, so he's saying they'll use a "vastly larger ship"? Does he mean like the space shuttle, in size, or does "vast" mean whatever he wants it to mean?

The guy and the entire company is full of ****.
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Yep .... it's basic mass vs. gravity calculation, but I'm not sure any manned vehicle's occupants would be too thrilled with that bouncing ball approach they used for the last two landers ..... but you got to admit, that would be one heck of a ride!


TS Evangelist
I don't really see any alternative to a powered decent. The Martian atmosphere is so thin, and has so little oxygen, that very little velocity is actually burned off during the aerobraking portion of decent. Those same problems affect parachutes too. This is why small payloads get dropped with airbags, and the largest payloads we've ever sent to the surface - Viking 1, Viking 2, Curiosity Rover - needed powered decents to make the surface in one piece.

I think Musk is realizing that landing men on another interplanetary body is beyond the capabilities of private corporations.
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And alas, Mars is simply too small to support a breathable atmosphere no matter what humans do. We could live in domes, but it's actually the radius of a planet (and its composition, obviously) that determine its atmosphere. Earth happens to be the right size to support oxygen and nitrogen, but Mars is far too small.


And here, our boy supports the theory with analyses of Venus, Mars, and the Jovians:
"We can use the same math on Mars. Mars has a gravity .376g. What gas has a weight 1/.376 that of argon? That would be an inert gas with a molecular weight of 106.4. That is about the atomic weight of palladium. Since there are no common gases that match that profile at Martian atmospheric temperatures, we have a simple explanation for Mars' tenuous atmosphere. Most of Mars' atmosphere is CO2, we are told, but on Mars it doesn't fall, it rises. We can see the plume behind Mars as its atmosphere is blown off into space. We are told the Solar Wind blows it off, but we now know that it would blow off even without the Solar Wind. CO2 and the other Martian gases are simply too light for the unified field of Mars. In other words, Mars is too small to have ever had a permanent atmosphere. That is, unless you can compose a gas at 106.4."


This is the hard science that people like Musk never bother with. Does this mean going to Mars isn't worth it? No, not necessarily. But it means that Mars can't float a breathable atmosphere, ever. Domes are of course an option, but we'd still have to take (or make) all our own oxygen and nitrogen once there.

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