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NASA Successfully Tests 'Flying Saucer' Craft, New Parachute 49

As reported by the Associated Press, via the Washington Post, an update on the promised (and now at least mostly successful) new disc-shaped craft and parachute technology intended for a NASA mission to Mars, though applicable to other space missions as well: A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle launched by balloon high into Earth’s atmosphere splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, completing a successful test on Saturday of technology that could be used to land on Mars. Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after piercing through the thin Martian atmosphere. The $150 million experimental flight tested a novel vehicle and a giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts. Despite small problems like the giant parachute not deploying fully, NASA deemed the mission a success. ... [T]he parachute unfurled — if only partially — and guided the vehicle to an ocean splashdown about three hours later. At 110 feet in diameter, the parachute is twice as big as the one that carried the 1-ton Curiosity rover through the Martian atmosphere in 2011. Coatta said engineers won't look at the parachute problem as a failure, but as a way to learn more and apply that knowledge during future tests. ... A ship was sent to recover a "black box" designed to separate from the vehicle and float. Outfitted with a GPS beacon, the box contains the crucial flight data that scientists are eager to analyze. "That's really the treasure trove of all the details," Coatta said. "Pressure, temperature, force. High-definition video. All those measurements that are really key to us to understanding exactly what happens throughout this test."
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NASA Successfully Tests 'Flying Saucer' Craft, New Parachute

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  • Re:Yawn (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:48PM (#47343077) Homepage Journal

    This is something called a low-density supersonic decelerator. It's probably a bit different from anything else that has been happening "for the last 50 years." It's meant to allow a parachute to work effectively in the low-density atmosphere of Mars for spacecraft that are too heavy for conventional parachutes or the bouncing type of landing that was used for the Mars Exploration Rovers.

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/n... [nasa.gov]

  • Re:fucking nasa (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @12:16AM (#47343305)

    NASA has had their hand in lots and lots of aeronautics projects over the years, and really has pushed what they can do for terrestrial and near-earth transportation to the limit. NASA shouldn't be focused on these areas anymore, as the companies-of-old that built their LEO launchers and the companies now building LEO launchers have things well in hand.

    NASA is focusing on what they should, which is finding an area in space exploration that is deficient or has run into a limit, and to find a way around that. The parachute systems used to land on Mars date back to the Viking missions of the seventies and do not provide enough drag for future heavier payloads, they're literally at their design limits. If we want to land more than small rovers on Mars then we need a means to slow that payload down. NASA is attempting develop that means.

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