In Pictures: NASA tests supersonic Mars flying saucer

NASA system looks to safely land larger spacecraft on Mars

NASA took an important first step towards sending heavier spacecraft to Mars this weekend when it successfully tested a nearly 7,000 pound flying saucer-like test vehicle and braking system over the Pacific Ocean. A high-altitude balloon launched the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) craft at about 120,000 feet. Once released the test vehicle’s solid-fueled rocket engine blasted the craft on a trajectory to reach the supersonic speeds (Mach 4) needed to test the supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator and the supersonic parachute. This test was the first of three planned for the LDSD project, developed to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions.

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