The LDSD Project will test inflatable decelerators and advanced parachutes in a series of rocket sled, wind tunnel, and rocket-powered flight tests to slow spacecraft prior to landing (Photo: NASA)
The rocket sled test fixture aims to replicate the forces supersonic spacecrafts would experience prior to landing (Photo: NASA)
A one-third scale prototype LDSD ringsail parachute undergoes flow testing at the NASA Ames Research Center; a full-scale version would envelope the entire test section when fully inflated (Photo: Eric Hames/NASA ARC)
Proposed flight profile for four high-altitude LDSD tests in Earth’s stratosphere (Image: NASA/JPL)
NASA's inflatable flying saucers could help astronauts land bigger and heavier spacecraft on Mars and other planets (Photo: NASA/JPL)
The LDSD project aims to develop and test two sizes of inflatable drag devices and a large new, supersonic ringsail parachute (Image: NASA/JPL)
It's tough to slow down spacecraft descending through Mars' thin atmosphere at supersonic speeds, as they need to drop to a speed that allows them to land in one piece. This is why NASA is developing lightweight inflatable flying saucers that will fit around the outer rims of spacecraft such as human habitats, inflating as the habitats descend to permit a safe landing. The technology will allow astronauts to land bigger and heavier spacecraft on Mars without needing to carry massive atmospheric shields or huge amounts of extra fuel.
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