A flawed first flight for NASA’s saucer for testing Mars landing techniques.


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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), the saucer shaped system for testing new landing techniques on Mars, did its first flight today with mixed results.

A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle testing new technology for Mars landings rocketed high over the Pacific on Saturday and deployed a novel inflatable braking system, but its massive parachute failed to fully unfurl as it descended to a splashdown. Control room cheers that greeted successful steps in the complex test rapidly died as the parachute appeared to emerge tangled. “Please inform the recovery director we have bad chute,” a mission official ordered.

I have found two other stories on this test flight, one from nasaspaceflight and the second from reuters. Both the Huffington Post story above and these two fail entirely to tell us whether the test vehicle was damaged when its parachute failed to open and it hit the water. Worse, all three articles seem to ignore this significant detail in describing enthusiastically NASA’s future plans for the LDSD.

As a reader, I instead think: NASA’s future plans are not the story now. The story is whether this program can even continue.

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One comment

  • mivenho

    We’ll have to wait to hear whether the vehicle was damaged and to what extent. The black box data will also need to be analyzed to determine overall mission success (was the black box retrieved?). I hope JPL had contingency plans for dealing with a bad chute scenario, especially since it was apparently the largest chute of its kind ever tested.

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