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Watch: NASA just tested a supersonic parachute for the Mars 2020 mission and it looks incredible

The success of the new mission to explore the red planet relies heavily on a new type of parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters Mars’s atmosphere.


NASA has a hit on its hands with the first flight test of the supersonic parachute at its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The device is crucial for its Mars 2020 Mission.

Dubbed the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), its function is to slow the spacecraft down as it enters Mars’s atmosphere.

The video above shows the lift-off of a two-stage rocket, which accelerates to three times the speed of sound to reach the desired test condition – a low density environment similar to the one the rocket will encounter when it enters the Martian atmosphere.

The parachute, made of nylon, technora and kevlar, is then deployed. At the moment of full inflation, it is going at 1.8 times the speed of sound or nearly 1,300 miles an hour, and generating nearly 35,000 pounds of drag force – which will be necessary to slow down the payload as it enters the Martian atmosphere. This is the first of several tests in support of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.

“It is quite a ride! The imagery of our first parachute inflation is almost as breathtaking to behold as it is scientifically significant,” said Ian Clark of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “For the first time, we get to see what it would look like to be in a spacecraft hurtling towards the Red Planet, unfurling its parachute.”

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To know more about inclusion and diversity, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Accenture and not by the Scroll editorial team.