Watch: NASA's Flying Saucer Is Torn Apart In Latest Failed Test

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 - 12:44PM
Space
Mars
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 - 12:44PM
Watch: NASA's Flying Saucer Is Torn Apart In Latest Failed Test
NASA hopes its revolutionary LDSD spacecraft will someday take astronauts to Mars, but today is not that day. The UFO-shaped spaceship had its second test launch yesterday afternoon, but was spectacularly ripped to shreds in mid-flight.



NASA's low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD) is essentially a giant donut-shaped balloon powered by rockets. It may look like a prop from an alien invasion film and/or a practical joke, but it's actually optimized for interplanetary travel. Its distinctive saucer shape helps increase the surface area, which creates a drag effect and allows for a soft landing. As a result of this cutting-edge technology, NASA hopes it will allow us to land large payloads on other planets, including Mars.

The first test of the LDSD, which took place on June 28, 2014, saw the LDSD take off successfully until its supersonic parachute was deployed, at which time it was torn apart in the air before landing in the Pacific Ocean. The research team still declared the trial to be a success, as it landed in the correct location and provided them with insight as to improvements that needed to be made to the parachute and the landing gear. They upgraded their designs and hoped the parachute would remain intact during the second test flight, but their attempts were unfortunately unsuccessful.



The fact that this test failed for essentially the same reasons as the first is discouraging, but the research team remains undaunted, and insists that today's test provided them with invaluable data going forward.

"This is exactly why we do tests like this before we send things to Mars, so that we can understand exactly how they work, or don't work," said JPL engineer Dan Coatta during NASA's webcast of today's test. "Then we can improve on our designs to make sure that, when we're actually ready to send [heavy] spacecraft to Mars, we know that they're going to work when that big mission is on the line."

The second test launch of the LDSD was originally scheduled for June 2, but as the spacecraft is largely composed of a giant balloon, it is easily affected by the wind and other weather conditions. As a result, the test was delayed until yesterday, June 8, and now another test flight is tentatively scheduled for next year.

Via Scientific American.
Science
NASA
Space
Mars

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