Encyclopedia Astronautica
Ford Mars Lander

American manned Mars lander. Study 1963. The Mars lander assumed in NASA studies from 1964 to 1966 was a lifting body conceived by Ford Aeronutronic in May-December 1963. Given a go-ahead by 1965, it would be available for Mars missions by 1975.

The 27 metric ton spaceship could accommodate three crew and was 9.15 m long with a 10 m wingspan. However the design assumed a Mars surface atmospheric pressure of 85 millibars. The discovery by the Mariner 4 probe that the actual value was one tenth of this invalidated the Ford design.

The assumptions used in designing the spacecraft was a Martian atmosphere of 94% nitrogen, 2% carbon dioxide, 4% argon, with a surface pressure of 85 millibars. A combination thermal/meteoroid shield which protected it during the transit from earth would be jettisoned two hours before landing on the surface. The ship's columbium hull could withstand a peak temperature of 1680 deg C at the nose during entry into the Martian atmosphere. After slowing to Mach 1.5 at 23 km over the Martian surface, a single parachute would be deployed from the nose, which would bring the lander to a tail-down attitude for landing. Rockets would fire as the spacecraft neared the surface, giving the crew 60 seconds of hover time to select a landing point clear of rocks. The planned landing site was Cecropia (now known as Vastitas Borealis, north of Antoniadi crater). The spacecraft had consumables for 10 to 40 days on the surface, and 16 man-hours per day of extra vehicular activity. The crew was to consist of a Captain, a geologist, and a biologist. Study of Martian life-forms was expected to form a major part of the crew's work.


Crew Size: 3.

Gross mass: 27,000 kg (59,000 lb).
Height: 9.15 m (30.01 ft).
Span: 10.00 m (32.00 ft).

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  • Portree, David S. F., Humans to Mars: Fifty Years of Mission Planning, 1950 - 2000, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History Series, Number 21, February 2001.

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