Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Parachute Problem Sinks NASA’s Mars Spaceship Test

The latest test of a system designed to land a manned spacecraft on Mars ended with a parachute problem that left a saucer-shaped spaceship plummeting at high speed into the Pacific Ocean.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration test aimed to expand the ability to explore Mars and pave the way for an eventual human landing on the red planet.
This is how it was supposed to work:
After several days of delay for bad weather, a helium balloon lifted NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle above its launch facility in Hawaii around 7:43 a.m. local time Monday.
The balloon carried the vehicle to a height of about 23 miles, where air has the same thickness as Mars’s air, and an inbuilt rocket fired it up to 34 miles at four times the speed of sound before a parachute was meant to slow its descent to the Pacific Ocean.
However, the 100-foot diameter parachute, which NASA says is the largest ever used, inflated but only partially deployed and left the capsule plummeting toward a Navy test range in the Pacific, though a donut-shaped inflatable ring around the capsule did inflate. An earlier version of the parachute was ripped to shreds in a test last year.
A third test is planned next year, a critical part of NASA’s plans to land humans on Mars in the 2030s. Human missions, and the sophisticated robotic explorations planned ahead of that, will involve landing much heavier spacecraft on Mars than those NASA has used in the past, requiring an enhanced ability to slow their descent in the planet’s extremely thin atmosphere.
NASA said the capsule carried a black box flight recorder that would provide clues to what went wrong in Monday’s test.
Read the rest of the story HERE and view a related video below:

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