Landing a spacecraft isn’t easy, especially when you’re landing on another planet. Aside from the challenges of a remote landing (i.e. landing without astronauts on board) are the challenges presented by the target planet’s environment. Mars is a great example. Entry, descent, and landing or EDL engineers have to deal with a thinner atmosphere and weaker gravity when designing methods for safely delivering bigger and heavier payloads to Mars. “Planetary Landings, Another New Frontier” offers a brief and selected history of landings on other planets.
Speaking of Mars, Wernher von Braun developed a mission to Mars in 1950 that used only the technology of the day and absolutely would have worked. The key piece of his mission, however, was the Saturn V – the titanic rocket that launch Apollo to the moon. It is often said that the Saturn V is lost, that no one who knows how to build one is still alive. How can this be the case when there are complete rockets and pieces still around? “The Lost Art of the Saturn V” explains a little about how and why the mammoth launch vehicle is ‘lost’. (Pictured: The first Saturn V to launch, the unmanned Apollo 4 with an Apollo command and service module as payload, sits on the launch pad. 1967.)