JPL tests big with a supersonic parachute for Mars

Apr 11, 2014 by Jason Major, Universe Today

"You wanna go to Mars, you wanna go big? Then you gotta test big here," says mechanical engineer Michael Meacham, and testing big is exactly what he and other engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have done to develop a new supersonic parachute for future Mars landings.

The process of putting things onto Mars has traditionally used the same couple of tried-and-true methods: inflatable, shock-absorbing bouncers and large parachutes combined with retro-rockets (most recently seen in the famous "Seven Minutes of Terror" Curiosity landing in August 2012.) But both methods are limited in how large and massive of an object can safely be placed on the Martian surface. For even larger-scale future missions, new technology will have to be developed to make successful landings possible.

Enter the LDSD, or Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, an enormous parachute—similar to the one used by Curiosity except bigger—that can slow the descent of even more massive payloads through the thin Martian atmosphere.

Of course, part of the development process is testing. And in order to run such a large chute through the same sorts of rigors it would experience during an actual Mars landing, JPL engineers had to step outside of the wind tunnel and devise another method.

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Credit: NASA/JPL

The one they came up with involves a rocket sled, a Night Hawk helicopter, a 100-lb steel bullet, a kilometer-long cable (and lots and lots of math.) It's an experiment worthy of "Mythbusters"… watch the video above to see how it turned out.

"When we land spacecraft on Mars, we're going extremely fast… we have got to slow down. So we use a parachute. And we use a really big ," says Michael Meacham, at JPL.

Explore further: Successful engine test enables SpaceX Falcon 9 soar to space station in Jan. 2015

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User comments : 3

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gwrede
1 / 5 (2) Apr 13, 2014
These videos are getting so fast and furious, so full of action and zooming and rock music (not to mention the condescending jock of a speaker) that its hard to find the facts and points here.

What is left, is a worthless piece of eye and ear candy, totally void of understandable content.
peter_trypsteen
5 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2014
Another interesting development in breaking is:
The Plasma Magnetoshell
http://www.nasa.g...ley.html
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2014
Another interesting development in breaking is:
The Plasma Magnetoshell
http://www.nasa.g...ley.html
Wow.

"This means that for any given breaking drag forces on the Magnetoshell will be three orders of magnitude larger than the aerodynamic forces on the spacecraft. With the ability to rapidly and precisely modify the drag in varying atmospheric conditions, much larger braking forces can now be contemplated at low risk, enabling very aggressive aerocapture maneuvers. In addition, the Magnetoshell will shield against solar radiation. As will be shown, the mission benefits are dramatic. A NASA DRA 5.0 manned mission to Mars can be accomplished with 225 MT is mass savings and decreased programmatic and technical risk."

-If Gswift is reading this, didn't you say only a month ago that all this was impossible? Yes you did.

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