Nine times, NASA has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars, using sophisticated parachutes, enormous airbags, and jetpacks to secure the vehicle to the planet's surface. Engineers are currently testing whether or not crashing is the quickest way to reach the Martian surface.
An experimental lander concept known as SHIELD (Simplified High Impact Energy Landing Device) would employ an accordion-like, foldable base that functions like a car's crumple zone and absorbs the energy of a heavy impact, as opposed to slowing a spacecraft's high-speed fall.
By streamlining the terrifying entrance, descent, and landing process and increasing the number of potential landing locations, the new design might significantly lower the cost of landing on Mars.
According to SHIELD's project manager Lou Giersch of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, "We think we could travel to more hazardous locations, where we wouldn't want to risk trying to deploy a billion-dollar rover with our existing landing technologies." "Perhaps we could even land many of them to create a network at other hard-to-reach sites."
The design of SHIELD is heavily influenced by the Mars Sample Return campaign of NASA. The Perseverance rover is gathering rock samples in airtight metal tubes as the first stage in that campaign; a future spacecraft will take those materials back to Earth in a tiny capsule and safely crash land in a remote area.