mr. Mueller said the capsule will be the same size and shape as the InSight mission. “It’s like using the same type of heat shield materials, exactly the same parachute design,” he said. “So we just use what NASA has already analyzed and proven a lot in every mission of this magnitude that has successfully gone to Mars.”
The lander will be about the size of InSight, but lighter, Mr. King. Mueller said. The basic configuration would not even include solar panels and would not work for long, only until its batteries were exhausted.
mr. Mueller said Impulse began talks with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which operates the InSight mission, this year.
However, a spokesman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said there had not yet been much work between the lab and Impulse. “It appears we have had preliminary discussions with Impulse about this,” spokesman Andrew Goode said. “But although they were eager to meet with us this year, this meeting has not yet taken place.”
NASA Mars Exploration Program Director Eric Janson said through a spokesman at agency headquarters that NASA had no direct contact with Impulse and that it had no idea of the specifics of what the company was about to do.
Relativity isn’t the only private space company to announce planetary exploration.
In 2020, Rocket Lab said it plans to ship a small ship in 2023 that will fly past Venus and drop the probe to see if there are any signs of life in the dense atmosphere. He also has a modest NASA contract to launch two small orbiters to Mars already in 2024. But Rocket Lab already has 25 successful launches of its Electron small rocket, and last month he sent CAPSTONE, another small NASA-funded mission to the moon. (He should arrive there in November).
A few years ago, SpaceX also had modest plans for Mars, which were later abandoned.
In 2016, the company announced that the version of its Crew Dragon Astronaut Capsule – without passengers on board – was supposed to go to the surface of Mars as early as 2018. In 2017, SpaceX canceled those plans, dubbed the Red Dragon, after changing the design of the capsule to splash in the ocean instead of using rocket engines to land on the ground. (Landing on water does not work on Mars, where there is no running water.)