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#1 2004-11-25 18:34:07

Palomar
Member
From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Who's that guy?

*I can't believe this hasn't been discussed or posted about previously, but I did some earnest hunting with the Search feature. 

Well...looks like Dr. Z isn't about to rest on his laurels any time soon. 

Zubrin's company, Pioneer Astronautics, has already done a significant amount of testing and research for the concept, and they developed a prototype gashopper for NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in 2000.

Cool.  I suppose Dr. Jeffrey Bell has already given the thumbs down.  :-\

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#2 2004-11-25 20:17:33

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

A very nice idea!
    Dr. Z always impresses me with his 'let's get on with it' attitude. As you say, he never seems to rest.  smile

    The biggest problem to be overcome, I think, will be something that was glossed over pretty quickly in the article, and that is "hazard avoidance".
    Every manoeuvre made by the MERs is planned, discussed, calculated, etc, before it's executed because of the time-lag between instructing the rover to move and finally seeing what happened after the event. In a very real sense, once the command to move is sent, we're driving blind. Admittedly it's a calculated and, so far, very successful strategy but it is an act of faith to some extent; a little like looking down the road from your parked car, figuring out you should be able to proceed safely for a distance of about 50 metres, then closing your eyes and hitting the accelerator!
    And the MERs have the advantage that they can see where they'll be going.

    This gashopper will be moving to brand new places it's never seen before, and landing there, without detailed input from scientists on Earth - unless it can hover over a potential landing site long enough to get a picture to JPL (or wherever) and wait for a yea or nay to come back.

    I'm definitely not trying to rain on Dr. Z's neat idea; far from it, I'd love to see it up and working on Mars. It's just that we'll be needing a degree of onboard artificial intelligence I'm not sure we have the technology for just yet.
    However, I'll be more than happy for someone to explain to me I'm way behind the times on this and that the technology is available and mature enough to do the job.
                                                smile

[Ideally, of course, we could save ourselves a lot of time and faffing around and just get on with the job of implementing Mars Direct A.S.A.P. We could have the first Hab settling into the martian dirt by 2018 if we had but the will to do it.]


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#3 2004-11-25 20:40:21

Palomar
Member
From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

The biggest problem to be overcome, I think, will be something that was glossed over pretty quickly in the article, and that is "hazard avoidance".
    Every manoeuvre made by the MERs is planned, discussed, calculated, etc, before it's executed because of the time-lag between instructing the rover to move and finally seeing what happened after the event. In a very real sense, once the command to move is sent, we're driving blind. Admittedly it's a calculated and, so far, very successful strategy but it is an act of faith to some extent; a little like looking down the road from your parked car, figuring out you should be able to proceed safely for a distance of about 50 metres, then closing your eyes and hitting the accelerator!
    And the MERs have the advantage that they can see where they'll be going.

    This gashopper will be moving to brand new places it's never seen before, and landing there, without detailed input from scientists on Earth - unless it can hover over a potential landing site long enough to get a picture to JPL (or wherever) and wait for a yea or nay to come back.

    I'm definitely not trying to rain on Dr. Z's neat idea; far from it, I'd love to see it up and working on Mars. It's just that we'll be needing a degree of onboard artificial intelligence I'm not sure we have the technology for just yet.

*Wow Shaun, you're absolutely right.  Why didn't all that occur to me?  :hm:  Sure, I know how the MERs operate and etc. -- but the comparison didn't happen for me, until you pointed it all out.  Definitely food for thought (understatement).

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#4 2004-11-25 22:45:38

GraemeSkinner
Member
From: Eden Hall, Cumbria
Registered: 2004-02-20
Posts: 563
Website

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

It would be good to see how a winged flyer would react in the martian atmosphere, then we'd have a better idea if an AI system would be able to work or not. Major obstacles would already be known in advance and plotted in a flight plan so should not prove a major problem. Its the unknowns that could prove its downfall, if the gashopper was slow to manoeuvre then its AI system would have to be looking a good way ahead to look for any pitfalls. If it was flying through a valley or round a hill it may not be able to see far enough ahead to plot any avoidance manoeuvres in time.

Graeme


There was a young lady named Bright.
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She set out one day
in a relative way
And returned on the previous night.
--Arthur Buller--

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#5 2004-11-26 02:22:04

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Dr. Z... Sounds familiar...

He's that evil genius in one of the Bond films? The world is not enough? big_smile


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#6 2004-11-26 02:46:21

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

On a related note... I once downloaded a *very* interesting .pdf that dealt with gas propelled probes, fuel cell powered, in the form of little balls. They just 'hopped' around... Idea was to pack *a lot* of them and launch them, so loss of some no problem etc.

But I have been unable to find the link since. Sounds familiar to anyone? They tested the hardware in caves.


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#7 2004-11-26 03:32:29

mboeller
Member
From: germany
Registered: 2004-05-08
Posts: 53

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

You can find the complete report about the Gas Hopper at the homepage of Pioneer Astronautics (together with a lot of other very interesting reports by the way) :

http://www.pioneerastro.com/MGH/mgh.html

Gasshopper Final Report.Doc

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#8 2004-11-26 06:05:06

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Shaun,
re: the hazard avoidance...

I guess it's quite straightforward to implement... Using radar and gyro's and some contact switches.

if you use three landing legs with 'contact-switches... and go down, slowly, using coarse radar, it steers you to a relatively level spot... slower and lower all-but hovering... Contact! Now if there's a big boulder or pit, on the otherwise quite level plane, only some of the legs will give contact, and the ship will start going off-axis. It starts to tilt. Just insert a switch that says: "if off axis for more than xx degrees, Then briefly increase gas exhaust, to give it a little mini-jump, away from that boulder-pit..."
repeat that 'dance' until you find a spot that's level enough. and cut the engine.
And hope you've not run out of gas before you found the sweet spot, of course.
But I guess mission planners will start first landing on a known flat place (like spirit/opp landingplaces) then hop to another flat one, then gradually go to a bit riskier terrain... untill they decide... "hmmm. That last one was too close for comfort, let's stick to terrain type XYZ, from now on."


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#9 2004-11-26 07:55:42

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

An impressively simple system, Rik.
    I don't mean 'simple' as in dumb, I mean 'simple' as in fewer things to go wrong and therefore better. And it might well work - especially if something like your incremental risk strategy is employed.
    As I've said, I want it to work! If we can't have a real geologist on the surface, this would be a good surrogate.
    How much developmental lead-up time do you think it would take to get the AI system reliable enough to risk $300-400 million on?


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#10 2004-11-26 09:54:06

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

How much developmental lead-up time do you think it would take to get the AI system reliable enough to risk $300-400 million on?

Good point. It-s high risk... Better make it as low risk as possible...

I guess Dr. Z is already halfway there... Test the 'naked' hardware (lander/hopper system  w/o expensive sciencepackage) till it breaks on Earth, first on flat terrain, later on more rugged stuff.... Then learn from what went wrong, repeat...

How much time? no idea. But he might give a call to the Armadillo guys, they've been working on just such control software, to put their suborbital RLV down, nose up.


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#11 2004-11-26 10:04:20

Palomar
Member
From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

*Every time I think of this gashopper (or is it supposed to be 2 words -- gas hopper?...oh well, the article crams it together, so the heck with it) I can't help thinking of that scene in Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back where that black sinister-looking probe descends down into snowdrifts, looking for Luke Skywalker (?), then gracefully picks itself up again (with almost octopus-like movements) and jettisons on over the snow. 

Yeah, I know Dr. Z's plan doesn't have sinister connotations...  roll 

But Rik, we still have that time lapse between Earth-Mars communication.  Maybe I'm missing something in your response.  (Oh...and sorry if I confused you in that other thread, regarding your current sig).  smile

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#12 2004-11-26 10:10:38

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

But you don't need no Earth/Mars comm, it's a simple hardware feedback loop, so independant for the last few meters/centimeters...


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#13 2004-11-26 10:22:22

Palomar
Member
From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

But you don't need no Earth/Mars comm, it's a simple hardware feedback loop, so independant for the last few meters/centimeters...

*I see.  Sorry for the misunderstanding. 

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#14 2004-11-26 10:23:03

GraemeSkinner
Member
From: Eden Hall, Cumbria
Registered: 2004-02-20
Posts: 563
Website

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

If the gashopper does not need to worry about whats in front of it, just where its going to land, then the AI required should not be a major issue. You could use the system Rxke suggested and add a ultrasonic unit to each leg, I think I could even put the electronics together for that  :;):

Graeme


There was a young lady named Bright.
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She set out one day
in a relative way
And returned on the previous night.
--Arthur Buller--

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#15 2004-11-26 11:10:04

universetoday
Member
Registered: 2004-11-26
Posts: 2

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Thanks for the additional links and comments. I made a few minor changes to the article.

Fraser Cain
Publisher
Universe Today

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#16 2004-11-26 11:29:52

Palomar
Member
From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Thanks for the additional links and comments. I made a few minor changes to the article.

Fraser Cain
Publisher
Universe Today

*Hi.  Your web site is fantastic.  I check it at least twice a day, generally. 

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#17 2004-11-26 12:35:23

universetoday
Member
Registered: 2004-11-26
Posts: 2

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Well, thank you very much, I really appreciate that. Of course, I only really update it once a day. In the mid morning here on the West Coast.

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#18 2004-11-27 08:04:34

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Nice of you to drop in Fraser!   smile
    By the way, in that photo in the "About Fraser Cain" section of your site, who's the old guy behind you in the white shirt?
                                                   ???


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#19 2004-11-29 08:45:30

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 17,796

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Interesting how compressed gas (air of any kind) can be used.
I would assume that the solar cells are on the wings and that the storage tanks are there as well. Would not take to much to modify the unit for manned flight control.

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#20 2007-03-31 20:03:31

RickSmith
Member
From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

Rather than using 3 legs I would use 6.

Radar on board finds a generally flat area and it goes into vertical landing mode (like a jump jet).  As it decends the legs start to touch down on rocks and the like.  Give each leg a 50 to 70 cm of 'give'.  If at least 2 legs have not touched down on the other side of the plane by the time it has used most of this give, then rise up a bit, move forward a bit and try landing again.

Extra legs make it a lot easier to find a stable landing zone.  (The cost of this is the mass of the extra landing gear, but since this is mission critical I feel it is worth while.)

Warm regards, Rick.

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#21 2007-04-01 12:24:50

Ian Flint
Member
From: Colorado
Registered: 2003-09-24
Posts: 437

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

I think a dual mode craft (VTOL/Horizontal Flight) is too complex.  They should try the gashopper concept with a ballistic hopper first.  If that works move on to the dual flight mode.

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#22 2007-04-18 13:10:01

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Martian Gashopper Aircraft

The Martian atmosphere is about two orders of magnitude thinner than ours. This makes flying with wings (horizontal) much harder, but it also makes ballistic flight somewhat easier. Ballistic hoppers for air travel, rovers followed by trains for ground travel some day.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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