NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission Performs First Supersonic Parachute Test

NASA's Mars 2020 Mission
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The Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will seek signs of ancient Martian life by investigating evidence in place and by catching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth, according to NASA, Xinhua news agency reported.

Landing on Mars is difficult and not always successful. Well-designed advance testing helps. An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second). Preparations for this mission have provided, for the first time, dramatic video of the parachute opening at supersonic speed.

The Mars 2020 mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth. The mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment, or ASPIRE, began with a rocket launch and upper-atmosphere flight last month from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

“It is quite a ride,” said Ian Clark, the test’s technical lead from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The imagery of our first parachute inflation is almost as breathtaking to behold as it is scientifically significant. For the first time, we get to see what it would look like to be in a spacecraft hurtling towards the Red Planet, unfurling its parachute.”

NASA has completed the first test of its Mars 2020 mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), the US space agency announced.

The Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will seek signs of ancient Martian life by investigating evidence in place and by catching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth, according to NASA, Xinhua news agency reported.

The rocket carried the payload as high as about 51 km. Forty-two seconds later, at an altitude of 42 km and a velocity of 1.8 times the speed of sound, the test conditions were met and the Mars parachute successfully deployed. Thirty-five minutes after launch, ASPIRE splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 54 km southeast of Wallops Island.

“Everything went according to plan or better than planned,” said Clark. “We not only proved that we could get our payload to the correct altitude and velocity conditions to best mimic a parachute deployment in the Martian atmosphere, but as an added bonus, we got to see our parachute in action as well.”

Future tests will evaluate the performance of a strengthened parachute that could also be used in future Mars missions. The next ASPIRE test is planned for February 2018.

The first ASPIRE flight tested a parachute that was nearly identical to the one used to successfully land NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the Martian surface in 2012. Subsequent tests will evaluate a strengthened parachute that may also be used on future Mars missions. The second ASPIRE test is scheduled to occur between February 12–20, 2018.
Read more at http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/organizations/nasa/nasa-performs-first-test-mars-2020-rover-supersonic-parachute/#pJYdk3BXlUwACXbD.99

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