Mr Mueller said the size and shape of the capsule would be the same as that used for the InSight mission. “It’s like using the same type of heat shielding materials, the exact same parachute design,” he said. “So we’re just using what NASA has already analyzed a lot and proven on all missions of this size that have successfully gone to Mars.”
The lander will be about the size of InSight, but lighter, Mr. Mueller said. The basic setup didn’t even include solar panels and wouldn’t last long, just until the batteries died.
Mr. Mueller said Impulse began talking to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which manages the InSight mission, this year.
However, a spokesperson for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said there had not yet been much work between the laboratory and the Impulse. “It appears we’ve had preliminary discussions with Impulse about this,” said Andrew Goode, a spokesman. “But while they tried to meet with us this year, that meeting hasn’t happened yet.”
Eric Jansson, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said through a spokesman at the agency’s headquarters that NASA had not been in direct contact with Impulse and that he had no information about what the company was planning to do.
Relativity isn’t the only private space company announcing planetary exploration missions.
In 2020, Rocket Lab announced plans to send a small spacecraft in 2023 to fly by Venus and drop a probe to see if signs of life might exist in the thick atmosphere. It also has a modest NASA contract to launch two small orbiters to Mars in 2024. But Rocket Lab has already had 25 successful launches of its tiny Electron rocket, and last month it sent CAPSTONE, another small NASA-sponsored mission to the moon. . (arrive there in November).
A few years ago, SpaceX also had modest Mars plans, which it later abandoned.
In 2016, the company announced that a version of its Crew Dragon astronaut capsule – without human passengers – would be sent to the surface of Mars in 2018. In 2017, SpaceX scrapped those plans, called Red Dragon, after it changed hands. The capsule design uses rocket engines to land on land instead of being ejected into the ocean. (Water landing doesn’t work on Mars, where water doesn’t flow.)