NASA – What would you say about a Flying Saucer flying majestically over the Pacific Ocean? Another visit by aliens, you would say? Well not exactly since it is designed and flown by earthlings as a part of the future space odysseys to the red planet Mars.
On Saturday NASA tested a Flying Saucer like spacecraft which will be used to land astronauts during future expeditions to the red planet. The device is called Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD. NASA had earlier used parachutes to slow the descent of its spacecrafts to Mars and prevent it from smashing into the surface.
The LDSD will not necessarily replace the parachute in future expeditions but it would surely make the landing that much safer. It will be some time before the saucer like LDSD will be used in human expeditions but it will be surely making the landings of future robotic probes much safer.
The flight on Saturday was the first of three such flights which will cost $150 million and it would be conducted in the outer reams of the atmosphere. Scientists will thus be able to mimic the conditions of the Martian Atmosphere. After a number of false starts and cancellation due to erratic weather conditions NASA was able to launch the spacecraft on Saturday, an event which was telecast live.
NASA says, “In order to get larger payloads to Mars, and to pave the way for future human explorers, cutting-edge technologies like LDSD are critical. Among other applications, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to the Red Planet.”
The agency has two further test flights scheduled for 2015. It’s “analyzing data on the parachute so that lessons learned can be applied” to the next flights.
There was a small hitch when the parachute did not open fully but still, scientists at NASA called the experiment successful.