College of Science, Technology, and Health

Preparing For a Trip To Mars

Lauren Redmond is a USM student from South Berwick, Maine, working towards a double major in Geosciences and Chemistry.  During the Fall of 2011, Lauren had the opportunity to complete an internship with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The focus of her internship was to locate potential Mars landing sites for several proposed and current Mars missions. Lauren’s work covered several stages of the landing site selection process as well as the continual update of data after a mission’s launch date, as new information became available. Using data from current and past missions and software for data manipulation and visualization, Lauren examined a range of topics relating to landing sites, including landing engineering and safety concerns.

One mission in her research involved a proposed NASA Discovery Program mission - InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. This mission intends to place a rover on Mars to study the planet’s deep interior and Lauren’s mission – to find potential landing sites on Mars for the rover. There were many engineering restrictions for the landing location to ensure maximum spacecraft functionality and safety.  Landing sites were mapped out as elliptical because the spacecraft will approach the surface at an oblique angle, stretching the potential landing locations within the ellipse along the entry corridor.

However, during the course of the internship, Lauren discovered it was challenging to find a location that fit ideal landing ellipses, so ellipses were placed in areas where outer edges exceeded some engineering restrictions. Since the spacecraft is statistically more likely to land near the center of the ellipse, this was an acceptable solution. Lauren’s findings regarding the InSight Mission, as well as two other missions, were presented in a final report and presentation at the end of the internship. 

For more information on USM's Chemistry Department:

For more information on USM's Geosciences Department:

And for more information on USM's College of Science, Technology, and Health: