NASA is ready to test a saucer-shaped vehicle which the agency believes will play a vital role in Mars exploration by making it possible to land heavier spacecraft – and eventually humans – on the Red Planet.Weather permitting, the first experimental flight will take place on Tuesday in the skies above the Hawaiian island of Kauai, which will serve to simulate the thin Martian atmosphere, AP reports. Robotic landers and rovers travel to space at supersonic speeds, but the parachute technology currently used for decelerating dates back nearly 40 years. In fact, the technology helped deliver two landers to Mars as part of the Viking Program in 1976, as well as the Curiosity rover two years ago. NASA has realized that a stronger and more reliable parachute will be required in order to send heavier cargo and human astronauts to the Red Planet. Scientists working on NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator mission (LDSD) took inspiration from Hawaiian pufferfish during their research.
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