Flying Saucer spotted over Hawaii

Image: NASA

If you are in or about the island of Hawaii in the next few days, you could possibly be in for a treat and a view of the first ever confirmed flying saucer. NASA is set to test a new vehicle that resembles the stuff of Sci-Fi fantasy at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range in Kauai, Hawaii.

Apart from looking super-freaky and massively like a flying saucer, the proper name for the test craft is in fact a low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD), which is a really boring name compared to its Sci-Fiesque looks. In fact, the LDSD is a parachute tester designed to test bigger and stronger parachutes, the likes of which we will need if we are ever to get to Mars.

The craft will never see service as a spacecraft in its own right, but is an important step towards a manned mission to Mars sometime in the not-too-distant future. Mars has a thin atmosphere compared to that found on Earth, so the kind of parachutes used here will not slow the landing craft sufficiently for a safe landing.

Whilst a manned mission may still be a very long way off, it is thought that the LDSD is testing out three different technologies that may find themselves into another and sooner unmanned mission to Mars. The first two technologies are Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators (SIADs), which inflate as the craft reaches its destination, increasing the surface area and thus drag of the vehicle.

The main test, though, is on the 100-foot diameter Supersonic Ringsail parachute, which when used with one of the two inflatable technologies, should more than double the safe landing weight to 6,600 pounds and increase the landing accuracy to about two miles. All of which will be good news for the first Martian settlers…..should there ever be any, of course.

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