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U of M experts available to discuss Mars rover landing

August 3, 2012

When NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover lands on Mars just after midnight on Monday, Aug. 6, it will mark the beginning of a prime mission to investigate one of the most intriguing places in our solar system.

Over the course of a full Martian year (687 Earth days), the Curiosity rover will study rocks, soil and the geological setting, looking for forms of carbon. The main science goals of the mission are to determine whether Mars could have sustained microbial life, to characterize the climate of Mars, to characterize the geology of Mars, and to prepare for human exploration.

Two University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering experts who can comment on the mission are:

Graham Candler, professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
Candler and his team performed numerical simulations of the Mars Science Laboratory parachute to understand how it behaves at about Mach 1.5 to 2.5. The problem facing scientists is that at these conditions, the parachute can partially collapse and not produce as much drag as required or expected. The university’s simulations were used to help explain the physical mechanism for this partial collapse process (called area oscillations) and to compare with experimental data.

Ellen Longmire, professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
Longmire worked with several students, performing velocity measurements in the wake of models of the Mars Science Laboratory capsule with and without parachutes attached. The goal was to provide validation data for numerical simulations of these flows in lower Mach number regimes. This work is also aimed at improving capabilities to predict parachute performance when decelerating the vehicle as it re-enters a planetary atmosphere.

To schedule an interview with Candler or Longmire, please contact Rhonda Zurn, College of Science and Engineering, at or (612) 626-7959; or Steve Henneberry, University News Service, at or (612) 624-1690.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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