Mr. Mueller said the scale and shape of the capsule could be similar to that used for the InSight mission. “It’s like using the identical variety of heat shield materials, very same parachute design,” he said. “So we’re just using what NASA has already analyzed loads and proven on every mission of this size that has gone to Mars successfully.”
The lander could be concerning the size of InSight but lighter, Mr. Mueller said. The essential configuration wouldn’t even include solar panels and wouldn’t operate for long, only until its batteries were exhausted.
Mr. Mueller said Impulse began talking with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which manages the InSight mission, this 12 months.
Nonetheless, a spokesman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said there had not been much work between the laboratory and Impulse yet. “It seems we’ve got had some preliminary discussions with Impulse about this,” Andrew Good, the spokesman, said. “But while they’ve been searching for to fulfill with us this 12 months, that meeting has not yet occurred.”
The director of NASA’s Mars exploration program, Eric Ianson, said through a spokeswoman on the agency’s headquarters that NASA had not had any direct communications with Impulse and that it didn’t have insight into the specifics of what the corporate was trying to do.
Relativity shouldn’t be the one private space company to announce planetary exploration missions.
In 2020, Rocket Lab said it was planning to send a small craft in 2023 that might fly by Venus and drop a probe to see whether there is perhaps signs of life within the thick atmosphere. It also has a modest NASA contract to launch two small orbiters to Mars as early as 2024. But Rocket Lab already has 25 successful launches of its small Electron rocket, and last month it sent CAPSTONE, one other small NASA-financed mission, toward the moon. (It’s to reach there in November).
A couple of years ago SpaceX also had modest Martian plans, which it later abandoned.
In 2016, the corporate announced that a version of its Crew Dragon astronaut capsule — with none human passengers aboard — was to travel to the surface of Mars as soon as 2018. In 2017, SpaceX canceled these plans, called Red Dragon, after it modified the capsule design to splash down within the ocean as a substitute of using rocket engines to set down on land. (Water landings don’t work on Mars, where there is no such thing as a flowing water.)