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Unformatted text preview: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Cambridge, MA 02139 Unified Engineering Fall 2005 System Problem #6 Group Members: Due Dates: November 10,17,28-30 2005 Time Spent (minutes) Part I Part II Part III Study Time Name: Unified SP6: System Context Overview image credit - NASA JPL If we want to learn more about our solar system, we must go out and explore. Today, we can send satellites into orbit around the earth, we can launch manned spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, we can send astronauts to the moon and, for exploration beyond our earth and moon environment, we can send probes to other planets. An example of the latter is the recent mission to Mars which has involved a pair of robotic rovers that are known as the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER). But why are we sending robotic rovers rather than sending people like we did when we explored the Moon? The answer is that we aren't really at the point yet where we can send human beings to Mars. Different nations have sent more than 30 probes toward Mars, but fewer than one- third of those probes have survived the trip. Without higher odds of success, it is not prudent to replace those robotic probes with human beings. Another reason favoring robotic exploration is cost. Robots don't need complicated life support systems; they can tolerate a bumpy ride into the Martian atmosphere and they do not need to ever return to Earth. They do their work and, if all goes well, they communicate back their scientific information to ground stations on earth. A manned mission would also provide additional engineering challenges. Astronauts need food for the trip, which is heavy and costly to launch into space. Astronauts would also like to return to earth, meaning they may need to produce fuel for the return mission from the Martian atmosphere. Nothing like this has ever been attempted, and it would take a number of test missions to prove the concept. Another big consideration is the cosmic radiation that astronauts would absorb during such a long mission, and how to block it. Much of this radiation is blocked on Earth by the Earth's magnetic field, but Mars has no protective magnetic field. So for now, we need rovers, and we need a team of engineers who as a group will understand how to design, build, test and execute a robotic mission to Mars. We need aerospace, electrical and mechanical engineers. We need guidance, navigation and control algorithm spets. We need communication systems engineers. We need scientists to help understand the sensors and map out the mission needs. And we need software engineers to architect the flight code so the rover can execute its mission autonomously, as communication delays between Earth and Mars make it awkward and inefficient to command a rover directly....
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