Watch NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Parachute Deploy at Twice the Speed of Sound

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 - 11:11AM
Space
Tuesday, 30 October 2018 - 11:11AM
Watch NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Parachute Deploy at Twice the Speed of Sound
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Screenshot: NASA/YouTube
What's big, strong, and faster than the speed of sound? Well, it's not Superman because he doesn't exist. Sorry. It's actually the new 180-pound parachute that NASA plans to use for its 2020 Mars Rover mission. During a recent test deployment the space agency set a new world record for the fastest inflation of a parachute of that size, with the chute opening in just four-tenths of a second.

The record was set on September 7 with the launch of the Black Brant IX sounding rocket for the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) payload's third and final test flight. NASA reports that two minutes after the launch, the payload was dropped back to Earth. When it reached 38 kilometers altitude at Mach 1.8, onboard sensors deployed the parachute, which is made of nylon, Technora and Kevlar fibers. Four-tenths of a second is very fast – twice the speed of sound – and would be hard to see, so luckily NASA was recording the test and has shared a slow-motion version of the footage.



"Mars 2020 will be carrying the heaviest payload yet to the surface of Mars, and like all our prior Mars missions, we only have one parachute and it has to work," said Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars 2020 project manager John McNamee in a statement. "The ASPIRE tests have shown in remarkable detail how our parachute will react when it is first deployed into a supersonic flow high above Mars. And let me tell you, it looks beautiful." NASA also reports that the 67,000 pound load used during the test was the "highest ever survived by a supersonic parachute."

With parachute tests out of the way, the Mars 2020 team will now have to focus on other aspects of the mission as the deadline fast approaches. "We are all about helping 2020 stick its landing 28 months from now," said Ian Clark of JPL, who was the technical lead for the ASPIRE tests. "I may not get to shoot rockets to the edge of space for a while, but when it comes to Mars – and when it comes to getting there and getting down there safely – there are always exciting challenges to work on around here."

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