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NASA tests flying saucer craft for future manned mission to Mars

KAUAI, Hi. — If you think you saw a flying saucer Saturday over Hawaii, you might not be crazy — except what you saw didn’t come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.

After several weather-related delays this month, NASA’s new flying saucer-shaped spacecraft lifted off from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range facility in Kauai, Hawaii, on Saturday morning.

The space agency said its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, went up at 8:45 a.m. (2:45 p.m. ET), carried aloft by a giant balloon on a test flight to ultimately test landing technologies for a future human mission to Mars.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the test vehicle dropped from the balloon and the “powered flight,” as NASA described it, began. At this point, the disc-like LDSD was about 120,000 feet, or more than 20 miles, above Earth.

NASA said their current information indicates the spacecraft’s rocket fire took it to about 180,000 feet — the top reaches of the stratosphere, at which point a donut-shaped tube inflated around the saucer, which began the deceleration process. Finally, a giant parachute deployed to slow the craft as it floated down for a splashdown in the Pacific.

That whole process took about 30 minutes.

“From what we know, the test was successful,” said Shannon Ridinger, a NASA spokeswoman.

Ridinger noted that noted NASA officials are still going through the data to assess everything what happened, noting that the only flaw known right now was that the parachute the space agency was testing had “an issue.”

Project managers are expected to give a more thorough rundown of how things went on Sunday morning.

Current technology for decelerating from high speeds during re-entry into the atmosphere to the final stages of landing on Mars dates back to NASA’s Viking Program, which put two landers on the Martian surface in 1976.

The basic Viking parachute design has been used ever since. It was successfully used again in 2012 to deliver the rover Curiosity to Mars.

Curiosity, by the way, just celebrated the anniversary of its first Martian year on the Red Planet.

NASA will need new and improved landing technologies to handle the larger spaceships of tomorrow and land them on rocky surfaces.

3 comments

  • danny

    another waste of tax payers money.we cannot take care of things on earth why do we need to worry about mars.just rich people playing with their expensive toys on the tax payers dime.

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