UFO-Style Spacecraft Test Flight to be Broadcast by NASA
Lately, it seems that the private sector has been stealing the show in terms of making attention-worthy innovations for space travel. However, NASA gives them a run for their money with their notable new creation: a UFO-like spacecraft that will potentially be valuable for landing humans safely on Mars, and even for developing a human colony on the Red Planet.
This device, which features an outside design that strongly resembles a stereotypical UFO from old school sci-fi flicks, is an inflatable, saucer-shaped vehicle called the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle. It is currently being built at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. Once completed, it will feature a 100-foot-wide parachute and two Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators, which will cushion landings when items like human habitat components are delivered to a camp or permanent base on the Martian terrain. Softening the blow for heavy deliveries is critical since planets like Mars have very thin atmospheres, which make it likely for shipments to become damaged during sharp landings.
The LDSD is a major improvement on the landing technology used to land the Curiosity rover safely on Mars back in 2012. While landing the 1-ton rover on Mars without sustaining major damage was quite impressive, NASA will need to build a much lighter-weight vehicle for human missions to Mars. Therefore, NASA has made the decision to revamp its technology for decelerating from high speeds, which actually hasn't changed much since the NASA Viking Program's parachute design was developed back in 1976.
So, when will this real-life flying saucer get its chance to shine? Well, NASA is planning to test it over the Hawaiian Pacific on June 3rd. Nasa will use a balloon to carry the vehicle 23 miles above Earth, where the rarified atmosphere is very thin, much like on Mars. Then, once it's cruising in the Mars-like sky, the real test will begin when it suddenly descends as it is cranked down to Mach 4.
NASA will broadcast this big test by streaming it here, so those eager to see how it performs will get an awesome live show. All Hawaiian residents should know not to fear an alien invasion when they see this out-of-this-world saucer flying through the sky.
It appears that flying saucers are the latest trend, as NASA already has plans to keep making more of these vehicles. NASA has two more vehicles currently in the works that are already slated to be tested in summer of 2015. NASA released a statement about their commitment to using these saucer-shaped spacecrafts to perfect Martian landings by saying, "although there is no guarantee that this first test will be successful, regardless of the outcome, the LDSD team expects to learn a great deal from the test."