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Alejandro Miguel San Martin

"From the Sojourner to the Perseverance Rovers, and Beyond: The Guidance, Navigation, and Control Challenges of Landing on Mars"

Event Details:

Thursday, October 19, 2023
4:30pm - 5:30pm PDT


Bldg. 530 rm 127

Abstract: From Sojourner to the Perseverance rover, Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) for Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) experienced an important evolution in architecture and design as the missions had to respond to ever more challenging requirements while maintaining mission risks to acceptable levels. The landed mass experienced an increase from 175kg for Pathfinder/Sojourner to >1000kg for Perseverance, while the landing ellipse had to shrink from 200x70km to 8x7km. In this talk I will describe how we addressed these and other challenges, how the design of EDL/GN&C evolved from an unguided-entry airbag landing architecture to a guided-entry SkyCrane one, and end with a description of the new GN&C EDL advances are being driven by the current Mars Sample Return mission. I will also try to describe the team dynamics and the historical background that were present during this engineering journey.

Bio: Miguel San Martin is the Chief Engineer for the Guidance and Control Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Throughout his career, he was the Chief Engineer for Guidance, Navigation, and Control for several missions including Mars Pathfinder, the Mars Exploration Rovers, and Curiosity.  For Curiosity, he was a co-architect of the innovative SkyCrane landing architecture and also served as its Deputy Phase Lead for Entry, Descent, and Landing. For his contributions he was awarded two NASA Exceptional Achievement in Engineering Medals, was named JPL Fellow in 2013, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2019.


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