Sunday, June 29, 2014

NASA test Mars LDSD 'flying saucer' vehicle on Earth

This image taken from video provided by NASA shows the launch of the high-altitude balloon carrying the LDSD, a saucer-shaped vehicle for NASA, to test technology that could be used to land on Mars, Saturday June 28, 2014 in Kauai, Hawaii. 

Saturday's experimental flight high in Earth's atmosphere is testing a giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts. (AP Photo/NASA)

LDSD, A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle testing new technology for Mars landings made a successful rocket ride over the Pacific, but its massive descent parachute only partially unfurled.

The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) was lifted by balloon 120,000 feet (36,575 meters) into the air from the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The vehicle then rocketed even higher before deploying a novel inflatable braking system.

But cheers rapidly died Saturday as a gigantic chute designed to slow its fall to splashdown in the ocean emerged tangled.

Still, NASA officials said it's a pretty good test of technology that might one day be used to deliver heavy spacecraft, and eventually astronauts, to Mars. NASA planned a news conference on the flight Sunday.

After several weather delays, NASA will finally launched it's "flying saucer" (LDSD) into Earth's atmosphere Saturday to test technology that could be used to land on Mars.

The attempt off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai tested the disc-shaped vehicle and a giant parachute.

Since the 1970s, NASA has used the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers as they streak through the thin Martian atmosphere.

With plans to send heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts, the space agency needs a much stronger parachute.

NASA tested the technology high in Earth's atmosphere because conditions there are similar to that of Mars.

High winds at the Kauai military range forced NASA to miss its original two-week launch window in June.

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