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


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

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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