Washington: A supersonic parachute that will help NASA missions to land on Mars, was successfully launched into the sky during a key test designed to mimic the conditions of entering the red planet.
The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) was launched aboard a sounding rocket on 31 March from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in the US.
The successful launch came after several days of delays due to rough seas at the parachute’s recovery zone in the Atlantic Ocean.
The test was meant to mimic the conditions that a spacecraft would experience during a red planet entry, descent and landing (EDL).
Shortly after liftoff, ASPIRE splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean, from where it will be retrieved by boat.
Analysis of the recovered chute and data gathered by the cameras and other instruments will help researchers complete the design of the chute for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover.
The Mars rover is scheduled to launch in two years, on a mission to hunt for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet.
NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s – goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.
Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system. Its formation and evolution are comparable to Earth, helping us learn more about our own planet’s history and future.
Mars had conditions suitable for life in its past. Future exploration could uncover evidence of life, answering one of the fundamental mysteries of the cosmos: Does life exist beyond Earth?
While robotic explorers have studied Mars for more than 40 years, NASA’s path for the human exploration of Mars begins in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station.
Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory are helping us prove many of the technologies and communications systems needed for human missions to deep space, including Mars. The space station also advances our understanding of how the body changes in space and how to protect astronaut health.