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Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent & Landing Instrumentation

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Entry Descent & Landing Instrumentation (MEDLI) will collect engineering data during the spacecraft's high-speed, extremely hot entry into the Martian atmosphere. MEDLI data will be invaluable to engineers when they design future Mars missions. The data will help them design systems for entry into the Martian atmosphere that are safer, more reliable, and lighter weight.

MEDLI was provided by NASA's Langley and Ames Research Centers. It is actually made up of two kinds of instruments (with seven sensors of each kind) that are installed in 14 places on the spacecraft's heat shield. The two kinds of instruments are:

  1. MISP (MEDLI Integrated Sensor Plugs): When the spacecraft faces extreme heat during entry into the Martian atmosphere, MISP will measure how hot it gets at different depths in the spacecraft's heat-shield material. Predicted heating levels are about three times higher than those of the Space Shuttle when it enters Earth's atmosphere. They will compare their predictions to the actual data collected by MISP. That information will help them learn how much heat-shield material will be needed to protect future Mars missions.
  2. MEADS (Mars Entry Atmospheric Data System): MEADS will measure the atmospheric pressure on the heat shield at the seven MEADS locations during entry and descent through Mars' atmosphere. The MEADS pressure sensors are arranged in a special cross pattern. This cross pattern will allow engineers to determine the spacecraft's orientation during reentry.