Colloquium Series Continues on February 1st Featuring Miguel San Martin of JPL

The Space Studies Spring 2021 Colloquium Series features several leading experts in various space-related fields.  Please join us for our second remotely offered presentation in this series as outlined below.  This presentation will feature Miguel San Martin, Guidance & Control Section Chief Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Presentation Title:  “From Airbags to Wheels: The Evolution of Guidance, Navigation, and Control for Entry, Descent, and Landing”.”

Date:  Monday, February 1, 2021

Time:  5:00-7:00 p.m. (CST)

Location:  online only – see details below.

About the speaker:

Mr. Miguel San Martin participated in the Magellan mission to Venus and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He was later named Chief Engineer for the Guidance, Navigation, and Control system for the Pathfinder mission. He assumed the same role for the mission that landed the robotic vehicles Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in 2004. Most recently, he was the Chief Engineer for Guidance, Navigation, and Control for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed Curiosity on the surface of Mars in 2012. He was a co-architect of Curiosity’s innovative SkyCrane landing architecture and also served as its Deputy Chief for Entry, Descent, and Landing. Throughout his career, San Martin has served as a panel consultant for various missions including Topex, Mars Polar Lander, Deep Impact, and Phoenix. Mr. San Martin has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University and an M.S. from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering with a specialization in Guidance, Navigation, and Control for interplanetary space exploration.

For his contributions, Mr. San Martín was awarded two NASA Exceptional Achievement in Engineering Medals, named JPL Fellow in 2013, and elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2019.

Participation details:

A simple live webcast will be available here.

One thought on “Colloquium Series Continues on February 1st Featuring Miguel San Martin of JPL

  • March 11, 2021 at 2:07 am

    A suggestion for a different way to land on the uncertain terrain of Europa, don’t ‘stick’, grab it!
    Like Titan, we know very little about the surface of Europa. But unlike Huygens, where any surface operations were considered a bonus, the Europa lander is there to do surface ops. With the uncertainty of the surface characteristics of Europa, from smooth and level to boulder strewn, cliffs and crevasses including the desire to have a stable landing on a 60 degree slope, non-cohesive surface (powder snow, loose pile of small chunks of ice) conventional landing legs may not be able to provide a wide enough range of adverse landing site conditions.
    A radically different landing concept would be to use long, semi-flexible ‘arms’ like the tentacles of an octopus. Each arm would be made of short, rigid sections joined together with a flexible material. During cruise they would be wrapped around the lander, then unfold and hang nearly straight out just before landing. After landing they would ‘grip’ the surface by tightening a tensile cable running through the bottom of each segment and joint, tightening the arm to wrap around and boulders, hills, depressions. This would followed by some process to make the flexible joints become rigid, perhaps simply letting them cool. If the base of each arm is mounted to the top of the lander with separate leveling jacks for each one the arms, trhis would then lift the lander just off the surface and allow it to reorient itself to be vertical. Since the tidal heating of Europa’s ocean would imply lots of surface quakes, the arms could be equipped with a metal ‘claw’ at each joint that could be sequentially heated enough to melt into the ice and freeze in place to provide greater support. If each arm were at least the circumference of the lander the combined foot print would large enough to provide a secure stance in almost any terrain. In the even the surface is more like deep powder snow and there is nothing to hold onto, the same motors that pull each arm tight could be turned on and off rapidly to vibrate the arms and get them to sink into the loose material as deeply as possible to give the strongest support for the lander and it’s drilling/sampling operations.
    A very unconventional landing system, but it might also help with landing on smaller bodies where the surface is still a loose layer of rocks or ice and the large foot print would improve chances of having something more solid to hold on to.


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