If all goes according to plan, plenty of eyes will be on Mars on February 18th, the day NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is set to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface. 

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Late in 2019, just months before the U.S. plunged into full-on, COVID-19 life, NASA tapped Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Jesse Capecelatro and his team to help study the particles that are stirred by the landing of a spacecraft. The rockets that fire on a typical spacecraft landing kick thousands of tiny surface particles into motion, and those particles can create trouble for any multi-million dollar craft even under the best of circumstances.


For the Mars 2020 space mission and other landings scheduled over the next few years, the University of Michigan crew will collect data and create physics-based models that can be incorporated into codes used by NASA. They’ll help predict what happens when a spacecraft attempts to land millions of miles from home.

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