Times are tough, so with NASA looking to get its first manned Mars mission off the ground in the coming years, they’re turning to the masses for a little help.
As part of the NASA Mars Balance Mass Challenge, the space agency has challenged the public to help come up with a design element of a future Mars lander that could be critical to getting the future craft safely to the Martian surface.
As we already assumed, it ain’t easy successfully landing a craft on Mars. Toss in the potential weight and size needed for a manned mission, and you have one heck of a huge mass problem that needs to be solved. That’s where we come in, apparently. The space agency is challenging the public to design balancing weights that are up to 330 lbs. to serve a dual purpose to help keep the spacecraft balanced while doubling as scientific instruments to collect data and take measurements.
As Space notes, the 2012 Curiosity rover needed to be perfectly balanced when approaching Mars. Along the way, the craft ejected two 154-pound weights to help it slow down, then it dropped six additional 55-pound weights to rebalance the craft for landing. NASA realizes it won’t do much good to get a ship to Mars if we can’t land it, so they’re trying to work out those kinks well in advance.
The initiative opened Saturday, and will run until Nov. 21. The agency will announce the winning design in January 2015, and the winner will receive a grand prize of $20,000. So whip out your calculators and get creative, would-be space explorers.
The Red Planet is waiting.