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NASA To Test Supersonic Parachute For Future Mars Mission

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With its strong winds and constant dust storms, landing on Mars comes as a challenge. Fortunately, some forms of technology such as supersonic parachutes help make the process possible and hassle-free.

In anticipation of future missions to the Red Planet, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is testing a supersonic parachute at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility this Thursday, March 29.

The event has been postponed from its previous schedule of Tuesday, March 27. However, the launch window remains the same at 6:45 a.m. until 10:15 a.m. EDT, with the backup launch days on March 30 through April 10.

Live coverage can be streamed through NASA's Wallops UStream site at 6:15 a.m. and through Facebook at 6:30 a.m. Meanwhile, those who wish to witness the test launch personally may proceed to the NASA Visitor Center in Wallops at 6 a.m.

Launch Of The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment

Known as Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment 2 or ASPIRE 2, the device will be carried in a payload by the Terrier-Black Brant IX from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The 58-foot-tall suborbital sounding rocket is then anticipated to deliver the payload to an altitude of 32 miles or 51 kilometers above the surface within a couple of minutes into the flight.

NASA's spacecraft is dropping the payload just above the Atlantic Ocean, around 40 miles or 64 kilometers away from the coast of Wallops Island. It will then be retrieved and returned to the Wallops Flight Facility for data recovery and inspection.

In an official statement issued March 21, the agency describes the payload as a bullet-nosed cylinder containing ASPIRE 2, the deployment mechanism, and some high-definition instruments, such as cameras for data recording.

NASA's Mars 2020 Mission

By 2020, NASA plans to send a rover to seek for evidence of ancient life on Mars. It will be deployed on the Red Planet and will rely on the supersonic parachute as it enters a volatile Martian atmosphere at more than 12,000 miles per hour or 5.4 kilometers per second.

True to its name, the parachute will open at a supersonic speed to facilitate the exploration vehicle's safe touch down on the surface of Mars, where it will drill for surface samples that it's bringing back to Earth.

To ensure its efficiency, an official report states that the ASPIRE 2 will undergo a series of tests, with the first one already completed in November 2017.

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