NASA to Experiment With Flying Saucer Device for Trips to Mars
Here’s an idea that’s out of this world: NASA plans to test a flying saucer device to be used for future trips to Mars.
NASA could send the giant, Frisbee-shaped vehicle into the stratosphere as early as tomorrow.
Discover Magazine editor-at-large Corey Powell said the device will allow us to land much bigger things on Mars.
The low-density supersonic decelerator, as it's officially known, will ascend into the skies dangling from a gargantuan balloon filled with helium. At 34 million cubic feet, the balloon would fill the Rose Bowl, encasing the helium in a skin made of a high-tech film as thin as sandwich wrap. Originally the launch from the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai was scheduled for Tuesday, but late Monday, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that bad weather has forced a postponement until Thursday morning. The next opportunities after that will be June 7, 9, 11 or 14.
After the balloon and its load soar to roughly 23 miles high, the balloon will break away from the vehicle and drop to Earth, the cue for a rocket attached to the saucer to fire. The rocket will propel the saucer to four times the speed of sound, duplicating the rapid clip of a spacecraft bound for Mars.
If all goes according to plan, the saucer's inflatable ring, made of the same material as bulletproof vests, will pop up, expanding to some 3 feet high in a fraction of a second. The ring is designed to brake the vehicle as it speeds through the atmosphere. Finally a parachute much bigger than anything of its kind will cushion the saucer as it drifts down to an ocean landing.