Any chance we could harvest all those dust particles for an significant improvement in aero-breaking capabilities or would it destroy most heat-shields?

estimated visibility

  • $\begingroup$ I would appreciate some explanation about the image, does it show a dust storm on Mars? $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jun 14, 2018 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe no it's a simulation. See for example npr.org/2018/06/13/619573721/… $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 14, 2018 at 13:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ it is indeed a simulated point of view for the curiosity rover, made by NASA using the data from visibility measurements by the rover. Original picture is here: photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA22521 $\endgroup$
    – drandrul
    Jun 14, 2018 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


In the simplest models, drag is directly linearly proportional to density, i.e. doubling drag would require doubling the air density.

Based on terrestrial flying experience: any material that can be suspended in a mixture (i.e. water droplets forming clouds, or ash/dust particles also forming clouds) isn't significantly changing the density of the containing medium. If it did, the air would tend to separate out over top of the dust. As-is, wind is capable of keeping the particles suspended.

So no, my (admittedly SWAG) conclusion is that you won't see an improvement in aero-braking.

Sandblasting effect I don't have a good guess at. Presumably at high entry speeds the entry shock would be pushing most of the dust around the vehicle, but I have no idea at what point the dust could become a problem.


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