After several postponements due to bad weather, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was finally ready today to send a flying-saucer-like test vehicle high into the skies to try out technologies that could one day be used to land on Mars. Also Read - NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter uses same chip as Samsung Galaxy S5, OnePlus One
The US space agency, which will launch its “Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator” vehicle, has included two new technologies for testing, an inflatable device and “mammoth parachute.” The disk-like LDSD was scheduled to launch on a balloon from the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai between 1815 GMT and 1900 GMT. To land on Mars, NASA has been employing a parachute system dating back to the 1970s, but with heavier spacecrafts, new equipment is needed. Also Read - NASA Perseverance Mars rover uses 1998 iMac processor with just one upgrade
The new technology is being tested at extremely high altitudes similar to those in Mars’ upper atmosphere. Strong winds had forced NASA to postpone the experiment, originally slated for a two-week launch window in early June. Once the balloon carrying the LDSD reaches an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,600 meters), it will let go of the vehicle, whose rocket will kick in and carry the system up to 180,000 feet. Traveling there at about 3.8 times the speed of sound, the two new technologies will be tested. Also Read - NASA astronauts complete seven hour spacewalk to prep ISS for new solar panels
First, a doughnut-shaped tube, the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, should slow the vehicle to 2.5 times the speed of sound. Then the mammoth parachute will carry the vehicle back to earth for a water landing, only 40 minutes after it was released from the balloon. NASA has two more LDSD flights planned for testing the two technologies. “If our flying saucer hits its speed and altitude targets, it will be a great day,” LDSD project manager Mark Adler said.