Watch NASA break a speed record in this Mars parachute test

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NASA is making ready expertise to be used on its Mars 2020 rover mission, because of land on the Purple Planet in February 2021 — and it is breaking world data alongside the best way.

Touchdown on Mars is notoriously difficult due to the planet’s skinny ambiance, which makes it tough to decelerate a spacecraft sufficient to land gently on its floor. So as to land their heaviest but rover on Mars, NASA needed to redesign an present landing-parachute design — the identical one which protected the Curiosity rover — with even stronger supplies, together with the Kevlar historically present in bulletproof vests. [NASA’s Mars Rover 2020 Mission in Pictures]

The company performed its ultimate check of its new parachute in September as a part of its Superior Supersonic Parachute Inflation Analysis Experiment (ASPIRE) undertaking. The outcomes are in and the parachute has been authorized for the 2020 launch.

“Like all our prior Mars missions, we solely have one parachute and it has to work,” John McNamee, undertaking supervisor of Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, stated in a press release. “The ASPIRE assessments have proven in exceptional element how our parachute will react when it’s first deployed right into a supersonic circulate excessive above Mars. And let me inform you, it seems lovely.”

Final month, the 180-pound parachute, plus a digital camera designed to observe it deploy, was launched on a sounding rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket carried it to about 23 miles (37 kilometers) above Earth’s floor, the place the ambiance’s density is about as dense as 6 miles (10 km) above Mars’ floor, the peak at which the Mars 2020 parachute is because of deploy.

Throughout the check, the parachute deployed utterly in simply four-tenths of a second, the quickest inflation of such a big parachute, in line with NASA. That can mark the top of the parachute assessments, however not the top of Mars 2020 preparations.

“We’re all about serving to 2020 stick its touchdown 28 months from now,” Ian Clark, the check’s technical lead from JPL, stated within the assertion. “I could not get to shoot rockets to the sting of house for some time, however in terms of Mars — and in terms of getting there and getting down there safely — there are at all times thrilling challenges to work on round right here.”

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