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Hawaii to imitate Mars for NASA space parachute test

Published time: June 01, 2014 23:15
A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii. 
(Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii. (Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

NASA is ready to test a saucer-shaped vehicle which the agency believes will play a vital role in Mars exploration by making it possible to land heavier spacecraft – and eventually humans – on the Red Planet.

Weather permitting, the first experimental flight will take place on Tuesday in the skies above the Hawaiian island of Kauai, which will serve to simulate the thin Martian atmosphere, AP reports.

Robotic landers and rovers travel to space at supersonic speeds, but the parachute technology currently used for decelerating dates back nearly 40 years. In fact, the technology helped deliver two landers to Mars as part of the Viking Program in 1976, as well as the Curiosity rover two years ago.

NASA has realized that a stronger and more reliable parachute will be required in order to send heavier cargo and human astronauts to the Red Planet.

Scientists working on NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator mission (LDSD) took inspiration from Hawaiian pufferfish during their research.

Reuters


A rocket-powered, balloon-like vessel called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) borrows the pufferfish's rapid inflation technique, which the sea creature uses for protection.

The new supersonic parachute is over 33 meters in diameter – too large to fit into the wind tunnels that NASA typically uses for testing similar devices.

During the test, SIAD will reach a height of around 55 kilometers and accelerate to four times the speed of sound (Mach 4) as it falls.

A tube around the vehicle will inflate and slow it down before the parachute emerges, guiding the vehicle to a gentle splashdown in the Pacific.

Landing has always been “one of the big technology challenges for a human Mars mission,” American University space policy professor Howard McCurdy told AP via email.

NASA engineers are keeping their expectations realistic, stressing that they may not succeed on their first try.

As long as I get data, I'll be very happy,” said project manager Mark Adler of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The space agency is planning more test flights for SIAD next year before deciding whether to use the new parachute on a future Mars mission.

Comments (7)

 

Diomede Cassar 02.06.2014 08:07

I add, if you look closely at the Pufferfish in the picture, one has to admit that it bears a striking resemblance to Barak Obama when he boasts about US "exceptionalism ."

 

Diomede Cassar 02.06.2014 08:01

Jen Psaki, Yuri Gagarin did indeed go to space. All the Soviet Union's space flights were real & USSR always admitted failures when they occurred & those responsible were "punished." ; The USSR Lunar Rover, Lunacod 1 has been located on the moon & remarkably is still sending radio signals to Earth unlike the US supposed moon landing equipment of which there's no trace on the moon. Some "reliable sources" are saying that grey aliens stole the NASA equipment & concealed the evidence to avoid being convicted in front of the Inter Galactic I.C.C. for daring to steal the property of uncle Sam, master of the Universe!

 

Jen Psaki 02.06.2014 07:07

Wesley S 02.06.2014 05:21



Im surprised Russia has not done any fake space videos since Yuri Gagarin never left the ground. I was expecting something when their Phobos-Grunt mars mission could not get out of orbit or the recent rocket failure with a spy satellite

  


We are still unable to produce rocket engine...Strange...

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