This project started in 2012. It was proposed by Nick Howes (UK). Nick noticed that NASA may take an experiment to Mars “for free” but you have to be ejected from the craft before NASA’s payload lands. More on why another time. Nick’s experiment is all about methane detection and the need to triangulate the source of the methane if found. A methane vent. That would be done by triangulation from a number of landers. Nick’s problem is that he had been told that there was no way to land these sensors. They would be travelling at supersonic speeds when released and would not be allowed to carry fuel in case it jeopardised NASA main mission – probably a rover. ThunderStruck’s mission is to package it all up in a set of impactors that can land on Mars, work out their position on Mars and in relationship to each other. It all started somewhere and this is our first sketches of the probes. To this day, the design has not changed. The concept has met the requirements of the mission.
Yes, the impactor spike is meant to be straight, but that is why we have graphic artists on board.
Here is an early artist concept below
The size of the springs, probe head and lots of other minor things have changed to meet the challenges of the mission, but the design is basically sound. The final graphics view is below showing it on Mars. Note that the umbrella unfolds after impact.
We will be posting updates on the project and as we develop the probes. ThunderStruck will be partnering with the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) to use their gas gun for test impacts into a variety of Mars type soils. We will even freeze them to Mars temperatures. Below is the ADFA Gas Gun in Canberra
We are also doing Impactor Tests in The Mojave Desert in California USA. Our rocket designer Rick Maschek is pictured below with what may seem like a toy, but this is serious science. The test probe on top of the rocket weighs about 2Kg and separates before apogee. We are looking for a 550kph impact. The rocket is designed to take the probe to about 9,000 feet to test the impact speed at terminal velocity. ThunderStruck’s teams are working hard to on all forms of testing. We will be testing laser range finders for sensing the distance to the surface of Mars for testing at Mojave. The size of the rocket will grow as will the mass of the payload as our ballistic testing will increase in complexity.
Well known Planetary Scientist Professor Jani Radebaugh from BYU in Utah has worked on projects involving moons and planets all over our solar system. She was well known for her work on Cassini data. Jani will be assisting with our simulated mars soils and work on the landing site when the time arrives. We will need to know what we are landing in to ensure that we take appropriate action during the landing phase of the mission. Once on the ground, we will enter a whole new phase of the mission.