NASA is preparing to launch a “flying saucer” into Earth’s atmosphere in order to test the technology that may be used to land on Mars. However, the test has been postponed many times due to incliment weather conditions. The next chance to launch the flying saucer will be on June 14.
According to the agency, the flying saucer test will be conducted in order to test technology that will aid in landing spacecraft, and maybe even humans, on Mars.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed the LDSD or the Lowe Density Supersonic Decelerator. It looks similar to a flying saucer. The dish is part hard shell and part inflatable bladder. Project Manager Mark Adler said that the balloon is “big enough to fill the Rose Bowl.”
Scientists have long been waiting to get the LDSD to take flight, since they also have long-term Mars plans including robot sample missions, and even crewed missions further down the line. Adler said that they have been using the same parachute design for 40 years. “The last time we did a test like this was 1972.”
The latest Mars rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, weighed around a ton. The new technology that is now being tested will allow heavier loads, twice as heavy as the Mars Science Laboratory, to land on Mars.
The LDSD will be ascending into the skies while dangling from a balloon filled with helium. It will be launched from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, which is located in the island of Kauai in Hawaii. When the LDSD reaches 23 miles high, the balloon will break and drop to Earth. The rocket attached to the saucer will then be fired.
“We want to test them here – where it’s a lot cheaper – before we send them to Mars,” Adler said.
Image via YouTube