13 April, 2014 in ,

NASA tests out flying saucer for future Mars missions

NASA has been hard at work testing out a flying saucer it wishes to send on Mars missions in the future. The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, created by the space agency, is scheduled to test the rocket-fueled machine and will launch it off to space in a few months. Should the launch-off be deemed as successful, the LDSD could be making its way to Mars and other planets, bringing large payloads to those areas of space.

On an operational level, the LDSD's purpose is to assist in slowing down a vehicle that is coming in for a landing. In the most recent model of the Mars rover—Curiosity—it was helped out by the use of parachutes and rockets to ensure a smooth landing. However, much larger machines would need an even more complex system.
Mechanical Engineer Mike Meacham, inside of the testing laboratory, described LDSD as a "much larger, supersonic parachute," as stated in an article from The Blaze. "When we land spacecraft on Mars, we're going extremely fast. We have got to slow down, so we use a parachute — we use a really big parachute," Meacham said, The Blaze reported.
Looking at price tags, Curiosity cost a whopping $2 billion, so landing devices like this latest rover will most likely be made up of expensive materials. Therefore, having the LDSD as an extra safeguard to protect these pricy pieces in space only seems like a realistic choice.
"It may seem obvious, but the difference between landing and crashing is stopping," Allen Chen at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California explained to New Scientist.
Testing is scheduled to take place in Kauai, Hawaii, in the month of June and NASA has chosen this location for an ideal reason. Meacham claims that the last parachute testing range used to take place in a wind tunnel. Though, newer parachute operations are too big for these confined spaces.
"You want to go Mars and you want to go big, then you got to test big. You got to be a little crazy sometimes if you want to do the crazy things," Meacham said, as stated in an article from The Blaze.
The deceleration system could be a "game-changer" according to what Robert Braun at Georgia Tech explained to New Scientist. "You could take a mass to the surface equal to something like one to 10 Curiosities. Think about it like a bridge for humans to Mars. This is the next step in a sequence of technologies that would need to be developed," Braun said, as reported by The Blaze.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_04_11/NASA-tests-out-flying-saucer-for-future-Mars-missions-8013/

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