Assuming NASA is aware of the capability of Martian winds to push heavy objects then why would they leave the MAV at Schiaparelli crater for years, knowing it could potentially be affected by the environment while there?

If it broke, or toppled, then the crew of Ares 4 could arrive and find that their journey was wasted because they can't risk landing if they have no means of escape.


2 Answers 2


The MAV needs time to make fuel.

The MAV is pretty cool. Turns out, through a neat set of chemical reactions with the Martian atmosphere, for every kilogram of hydrogen you bring to Mars, you can make thirteen kilograms of fuel. It's a slow process, though. It takes twenty-four months to fill the tanks. That's why they sent it long before we got there. Ch. 1

Ares 4 will be landing Schiaparelli crater, 3200 kilometers away. In fact, their MAV is already there. I know because I watched Martinez land it. It takes eighteen months for the MAV to make its fuel, so it's the first thing NASA sends along. Sending it forty-eight months early gives it plenty of extra time in case fuel reactions go slower than expected. Ch. 7

What if the Ares IV crew gets there and the MAV is bust?

The MAV was soft-landed (as opposed to the balloon bounce-fest the other supplies had). Of course, it was in constant communication with Houston, and if there had been any problems with it, we would have passed by Mars and gone home without ever landing. - The Martian, Ch. 1

What about wind gusts? What stopped the Ares IV MAV from toppling?


The MAV was designed for a certain windspeed and the windspeed was significantly more than that. It's just a matter of the design requirements not being adequate. There's nothing more to say than that. Sometimes the design spec is wrong.

It's also possible that more than the meteorologists being surprised, if you believe my claim here, that the MAV-IV was less tippable because it was loaded with cargo, then it means the MAV-III was only more susceptible because it was unloaded. But it would only be unloaded for the duration of the manned mission, which was something like 31 sols. So the fraction of time the MAV would be in this unloaded state would be tiny. So it could be that some probability analysis was performed which made the tipping likelihood during this short window vs. such a large storm was acceptable.

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