I've copied my blog from Memory Gamma: see original here.
Hi I'm Starfleet Academy and this is my opinion of the intrepid class' landing-gear (undercarriage). I would like to state that I love the intrepid class and it is probably my second favorite starship.
Firstly you have to know what it looks like in action. If you don't "ImperialCommander" has extrated this short from the Voyager episode "The 37's": see Youtube video.
These are the probs I see with such a system. Firstly I thought that how could a 700,000 tonne starship land on four legs... that's 175,000 tonnes on each leg! But working it out gives roughly 19,444 tonnes per square meter. Thinking that this would go through the soil layer on most planets, I have tried to create a different system to take the weight of the ship.
Other problems include the fact that when Voyager extends the landing struts, they come out side-ways and then turn down via the use of, what looks like, an axle hinge. This could never take 175,000 tonnes on it, even if the ground could support 19,000+ per square meter.
I realised that one would have to design the ship to have many many more legs then it does. Yes I've had over 100, and under 20. But I think I've found the magic number in 44. This sounds excessive, but I think it is necessary.
My idea gets rid of the huge space consuming struts that it has, and replaces them with 44 hydraulic pistons with 92 meter pads. This gives a more realistic approx. 1,767 tonnes per square meter.
Now I know what your thinking, this still means there is 15,909 tonnes on the struts. This could be possible because I've used hydraulic struts in the legs. I know the intrepid's system used hydraulic pistons too, but it also used hinged toes and the horizontal axle hinge mentioned before.
Getting more technical
The force of the 175,000 tonne weight pushing down on the horizontal axle hinge would snap it off, almost certainly whatever it was made of. So the weight has to be send down, and straight down at that. My system uses a vertical hydraulic piston per each leg, and the weight of the ship travels down through a counter piston, into the main piston, then to a ball joint (hydraulic fluid being the medium here), and into the pad. From there it is spread out on the 9 square meter surface.
Note that the pad would have to be flexible enough to avoid being snapped by a rock sticking out of the ground. The ball joint would then twist slightly, and the whole assembly would have to either flex just enough to avoid damage to the ship, or it would have to be connected to the ship via rubber mounts.
Hmmm tricky. I've added them to only areas that don't have any systems. I'm probably stuffing a great big foot through something but I can't find a good cutaway of the ship to fix this issue. (The MSDs are simply the ship cut in half.)
To take the least troublesome legs on the underside of the ship. Firstly the 3 x 3 meter doors would swing open, by halving. Then the legs would extend down. Upon contact with the ground the hydraulic pistons would engage and take the weight of the ship.
Now the more tricky side mounted ones. On deck 15 near the rear, doors would swing open towards the out side of the ship. The legs would travel along tracks filled with hydraulic fluid to center under a force absorbing cylinder. The counter piston would extend up to meet the cylinder and the main pistons would exetend down to meet the ground.
Note that the assembly that holds the weight of the strut in transit, is not weight bearing upon landing.
I would like to say that I've solved it, but in my mind the intrepid class is just too large to land. 1,700 tonnes per square meter (that's with my fixes) still is too much for most soil compounds I would think. Sadly we don't have anything that is that heavy per square meter. Even the CN tower in Toronto (I picked because it was narrow, ish) is only 30+ tonnes per square meter at the base.
I should note that the pad could get stuck on the ground if it was too thin. And to avoid this some small flaps could be attached to the edges that would not be weight bearing and keep back all the dirt from burying the pad.
In the episode VOY: "Initiations"; Mr. Paris does say that Voyager can't land on Tarok because "it won't support a landing". This seems wrong to me because in the episode VOY: "The 37's" the ship lands on a planet that has more soil. By that I mean that Tarok is just made of rock and clay, so why couldn't the ship land? Too harder surface. Could it crack the ground?
Please post anything you think of in the comments below. I'm happy to defend my idea, and would be glad to take on board different ideas.