The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully tested supersonic landing parachute that will be deployed in its Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020.
The mission will rely on special parachute to slow spacecraft down as it enters Martian atmosphere at over 5.4 kilometres per second. It was first of several tests in support of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), mission’s parachute-testing series was launched on 17.7-metre-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket for evaluation of ASPIRE payload performance. The payload was bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure holding supersonic parachute along with parachute’s deployment mechanism, and test’s high-definition instrumentation including cameras to record data.
This payload was carried as high as about 51 km and was successfully deployed from altitude of 42 km and at velocity of 1.8 times speed of sound. Thirty-five minutes after launch, ASPIRE splashed down in Atlantic Ocean about 54 km southeast of Wallops Island. The next ASPIRE test is planned for February 2018. The Mars 2020 team will use data from these tests to finalize design for its mission.
Mars 2020 mission
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by deploying rover for investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth. It will carry out search by conducting drills for core samples that may contain proof of microbial life from the past. The rover will also examine different methods to create oxygen from Mar’s atmosphere.