Landings Beyond Earth

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With planning for manned and unmanned missions to the Moon, Mars, and many asteroids underway, engineers are using numerical simulations to understand how spacecraft thrusters interact with planetary surfaces. Most practical data for this problem comes from the Apollo program and is of limited use for current missions. Recreating a Martian landing on Earth isn’t straightforward, either, given our higher gravity. Thus, supercomputers and numerical simulation are the best available tool for understanding and predicting how the plumes from a spacecraft’s thrusters will interact with a surface and what kind of blowback the spacecraft will need to withstand. (Video credit: U. Michigan Engineering; research credit: Y. Yao et al.; submission by Jesse C.)

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