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 March 31 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), ‘Space.com’ reported.
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. The six-wheeled vehicle, whose body is based heavily on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, will study rocks on site and cache samples for eventual return to Earth.