NASA has not only passed a supersonic parachute test for their upcoming Mars 2020 mission, but they have also just set a brand new world speed record in the process. This record was set during trial tests for the special parachute the agency will deploy in February 2021 when they plan to land their rover on Mars.
According to USA Today, a rocket that measured in at 58-feet-tall detached its payload during the recent test as sensors successfully released the supersonic parachute that is made out of Technora, nylon, and Kevlar fibers. It should be noted that this parachute is a redesign of the previous landing-parachute for the Curiosity rover, but in this case, Kevlar has been added to it, which is normally used to construct bulletproof vests, making the parachute even stronger and sturdier than ever.
Landing on Mars is a massive undertaking and challenge due to the extremely thin atmosphere of the planet. This makes it a difficult task to achieve a perfect landing by slowing down the rover just enough so that it can land smoothly on the surface of Mars. However, NASA has now shown that their special parachute should be flawlessly perfect for the upcoming Mars 2020 mission.
The conclusion of testing on NASA’s new parachute took place in September, as Space reports, and was the spectacular finale of this part of the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) project.
NASA's next-generation Mars rover mission will carry a state-of-the-art parachute that has passed its final test.https://t.co/wO9R47Uppd
— Astronomy Magazine (@AstronomyMag) October 30, 2018
John McNamee, who is the project manager of Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, explained that the testing of the supersonic parachute had to be absolutely flawless as there will only be one parachute landing the Mars 2020 rover, and there cannot afford to be any mistakes involved in the process.
“Like all our prior Mars missions, we only have one parachute and it has to work. The ASPIRE tests have shown in remarkable detail how our parachute will react when it is first deployed into a supersonic flow high above Mars. And let me tell you, it looks beautiful.”
During the final test of NASA’s 180-pound parachute, a sounding rocket carried it from the Wallops Flight Facility to 23 miles over the surface of Earth. The parachute opened so quickly that it took just four-tenths of a second for it to be opened, which has set a new world record for the fastest deployment of a parachute of this size.
While a record-breaking parachute record has just been set by NASA, preparations for the Mars 2020 mission will continue until the exciting day that the new Mars rover is finally launched for future exploration of the Red Planet.