Mars 'flying saucer' splashes back down after test

Mars 'flying saucer' splashes back down after test

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A saucer-shaped vehicle launched by balloon high into Earth's atmosphere has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, completing a successful test of technology that could be used to land on Mars.

The $150 million experimental flight Saturday tested a novel vehicle and a giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts.

The parachute did not fully deploy but NASA still deemed the mission a success.

After taking off from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Hawaii, the balloon boosted the disc-shaped vehicle over the ocean. Its rocket motor carried the vehicle to 34 miles high, where the environment was similar to the thin Martian atmosphere.

As the vehicle dropped back to Earth, a tube around it expanded like a Hawaiian puffer fish, creating atmospheric drag to dramatically slow it down.


NASA launches Mars 'flying saucer' vehicle, parachute in Earth's atmosphere

LOS ANGELES - A high-altitude balloon carrying a saucer-shaped vehicle for NASA has taken off from a Hawaii island to test technology that could be used on Mars.

Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after entering the thin Martian atmosphere.

Saturday's experimental flight high in Earth's atmosphere is testing a brand-new vehicle and giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts.High winds at the Kauai military range forced NASA to miss its original two-week launch window in June.

Engineers will analyze the data to determine if the "flying saucer" test was successful. NASA will conduct more tests next year before deciding whether to fly the parachute on a future Mars mission.

(The Associated Press) (from Broadcast News Ltd.)

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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