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NASA Successfully Tests Parachute That Could Be Used On Future Mars Mission

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A sounding rocket deployed a parachute to sub-orbit as a test. The ASPIRE parachute has been given a greenlight as it passed testing earlier this year. The parachute will be used during NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 mission.   ( NASA )

NASA reported that a parachute designed to be used in future Mars missions — robotic and manned — has been tested with positive results.

The new technology called ASPIRE or Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment was deployed using a Black Brant IX rocket during the early hours of Sept. 7. It carried a payload that had separated from the spacecraft before it descended back to the ground.

ASPIRE Parachute Ready For Mars

According to NASA, the payload dove back through the atmosphere and then deployed the parachute when it reached the appropriate distance and Mach number. Within four-tenths of a second, the parachute went from a cylinder to fully inflated.

The space agency boasted that this is the fastest inflation of a parachute of its size in the world. NASA's ASPIRE just broke a world record.

Of course, ASPIRE has been designed to perform better than ordinary parachutes. It is made of nylon, Technora, and Kevlar fibers that will enable it to carry heavier payloads in mind and survive a drop through the atmosphere.

"Mars 2020 will be carrying the heaviest payload yet to the surface of Mars, and like all our prior Mars missions, we only have one parachute and it has to work," stated John McNamee, the project manager behind Mars 2020. "The ASPIRE tests have shown in remarkable detail how our parachute will react when it is first deployed into a supersonic flow high above Mars. And let me tell you, it looks beautiful."

Jet Propulsion Lab, which handles the project, says that management has convened and given ASPIRE the green light to join the Mars 2020 mission.

Mars 2020 Mission

The ASPIRE parachute will be responsible for carrying an upcoming rover to the surface of the red planet. The unnamed explorer, which will follow its predecessor Curiosity, is about 10-feet long, 9-feet wide, and 7-feet tall. It weighs at about 1,050 kilograms.

Mars 2020 is NASA's latest effort to explore the surface of the red planet. The goal is to address questions of the potential of life on Earth's next-door neighbor, including its search for signs of microbial life in the ancient past.

The unnamed rover will also be equipped with instruments to collect samples from the surface of Mars that will be cached for future missions to collect and return to Earth. In addition, the rover is expected to pave the way for manned missions to Mars.

NASA has not announced where the rover will land on Mars, but it is expected to be launched from Earth by July or August 2020 and then arrived at its destination by February 2021.

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