Tumbleweed Inflatable Rover Artist Concept 100 px spacer

Tumbleweed Inflatable Rover

"Tumbleweed" is a large, beachball-like device that holds a central payload by means of a series of tension cords (Jones, 2001). On Mars, a 6-meter diameter ball could be used for descent (replacing the parachute), landing (replacing the airbag), and mobility (wind-driven on surface). With a 6-meter diameter ball on Mars, speeds of about 10 m/sec could be achieved during typical afternoon winds of 20 m/sec; steep hills should be easily climbed with only moderate winds. To stop, the ball is partially deflated by remote control; its mobility is then returned by command using a built-in pump to reinflate the Tumbleweed.

Wind-Blown Tumbleweed

Tests using this type of ball as an impacter sphere were successfully conducted in the 1960s at JPL (Ross, 1966). Impact speeds of as high as 60 m/sec were tested with payload fractions of as high as 75%. By comparison, the nominal tumbleweed ball configured for Mars would have an impact speed of about 30 m/sec with a payload fraction of about 50%.


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