Hawaii – NASA has tested a revolutionary new technology developed as a part of Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) program, which involves a flying saucer and a giant parachute to safely land giant robots on the surface of Red planet Mars.
The tests were conducted on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The Flying Saucer soared across the Pacific Ocean before it is used as a Lander on Mars.
Ian Clark of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said at a press briefing from Kauai, “Landing on Mars is an extremely challenging thing to do .If you are going to cast your eyes on the prize of landing people on Mars, you’re going to need extremely large drag devices to slow those vehicles down.”
Ian is the principal investigator for NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) program. He is also deeply involved in the development of 2 new devices which will enable the entry of large spacecrafts into the Martian Atmosphere.
One of the devices is a 6 meter SAID-R or the supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator which covers the saucer shaped space craft. The inflatable doughnut shaped SAID-R once deployed will increase the diameter of the spacecraft thereby increasing drag which h will reduce the speed of the spacecraft from Mach 3.8 to Mach 2.7.
The second device will be a supersonic parachute which is made of Kevlar and also has a heat resistant coating capable of withstanding a temperature of 600 degree Fahrenheit. This will further slow down the craft. It is a real challenge to test the technology since the devices will have to be taken to the upper stratosphere where the conditions are akin to the Martian Atmosphere. It will be 4 times higher than what a plane will fly.
The disc-shaped vehicle and a giant parachute will be tested off the coast of Hawaiian island of Kauai on Saturday. Parachutes have been used to slow Landers and Rovers as they hurtle the thin Martian atmosphere by NASA in the past. Since bigger and heavier spacecrafts will be used to transport the astronauts to the red planet, NASA needs to make even bigger parachutes made of stronger materials.