Altair VI: Sagan on Mars Landing Sites

Journalist Larry Klaes sent us this link at Altair VI, where David Portee’s wrote an excellent blog post about Sagan’s roll in determining landing sites for a Mars lander.

Carl Sagan, an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard, and Paul Swan, Senior Project Scientist at Avco Corporation, published results of their study of possible Voyager Mars landing sites in the January-February 1965 issue of the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. For their study, they invoked a Voyager design Avco had developed in 1963 on contract to NASA Headquarters. The “split-payload” design comprised an orbiter “bus” and a landing capsule. They would leave Earth together on a Saturn IB rocket with an “S-VI” upper stage.

The Voyager lander would be sterilized to prevent biological contamination of Mars. Near Mars it would separate from the orbiter, enter the martian atmosphere, and float to the surface on a parachute. It would operate on Mars for 180 days. The Voyager orbiter, meanwhile, would fire rockets to slow down and enter martian polar orbit, where it would photograph the surface and serve as a radio relay for the lander.