The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully tested an advanced supersonic parachute that is meant for potential use in future Mars missions.
Dubbed as Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), the supersonic parachute was launched atop a sounding rocket on Saturday, March 31 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch test was performed in conditions that a spacecraft would actually experience during its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on Mars. Notably, the Red Planet’s atmosphere is just 1 percent as dense as that of Earth.
Soon after the launch, ASPIRE splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off Virginia from where the scientist retrieved it back with the help of a boat. The test launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, but it was postponed to March 31 due to some issues. The first ASPIRE parachute test was performed successfully on October 4, 2017.
According to NASA officials, analysis of the recovered parachute and data gathered during the test flight using cameras and other instruments will help them complete the design of the actual parachute for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover.
The supersonic parachute is expected to slow down the Mars 2020 mission spacecraft when it will enter the Martian atmosphere at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour. As suggested by the name, the Mars Mission is scheduled for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V-541 rocket.
The main aim of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission will be to conduct geological studies of the Red planet, explore the potential habitability of the environment and to discover possible landing sites for future crewed space missions. The rover will also cache samples of rock and soil from the Martian surface that will be brought back to Earth in a future mission for further analysis by scientists. The U.S. space agency is yet to plan a mission to bring the samples back home.