Entry system options for human return from the moon and mars

Z. R. Putnam, R. D. Braun, R. R. Rohrschneider, J. A. Dec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Earth-entry system options for human return missions from the moon and Mars were analyzed and compared to identify trends among the configurations and trajectory options and to facilitate informed decision-making at the exploration architecture level. Entry system options included ballistic, lifting capsule, biconic, and lifting body configurations with direct-entry and aerocapture trajectories. For each configuration and trajectory option, the thermal environment, deceleration environment, crossrange and downrange performance, and entry corridor were assessed. In addition, the feasibility of a common vehicle for lunar and Mars return was investigated. The results show that a low lift-to-drag ratio (L/D = 0.3) vehicle provides sufficient performance for both lunar and Mars return missions while providing the following benefits: excellent packaging efficiency, low structural and thermal protection system mass fraction, ease of launch vehicle integration, and system elegance and simplicity. Numerous configuration options exist that achieve this lift-to-drag ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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