NASA Launches Mars ‘Flying Saucer’ On Earth
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A high-altitude balloon carrying a saucer-shaped vehicle for NASA has taken off from a Hawaii island to test technology that could be used on Mars.
Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after entering the thin Martian atmosphere.
Saturday's experimental flight high in Earth's atmosphere is testing a brand-new vehicle and giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts.
High winds at the Kauai military range forced NASA to miss its original two-week launch window in June.
Engineers will analyze the data to determine if the "flying saucer" test was successful. NASA will conduct more tests next year before deciding whether to fly the parachute on a future Mars mission.
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