This could be very exciting!
NASA says the project tests,
Breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth.”
During a live broadcast yesterday at ABC News, the 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound test vehicle underwent a “spin test” on a table at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Spinning an object keeps it pointed in one direction, and the saucer is equipped with a rocket to slow it down.
The reason why technology could be crucial for Mars exploration because it will decelerate heavy landers traveling at supersonic speeds through Mars’ thin atmosphere. The drag device could one day help humans, their cargo and their return rockets safely reach the Red Planet.
NASA officials said that, after the “spin test”, the next step for the vehicle will be in June when it will blast off on a test into near-space from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
Last year an LDSD test in Hawaii was deemed a success by engineers, despite the vehicle’s huge parachute apparently failing to deploy properly, according to Space.com.
via NASA Science