It was a flawless journey. The mission marks an important moment in the agency’s long journey to bring humans to the Red Planet.
NASA has successfully tested a heat shield for flights to Mars, which resembles an inflatable flying saucer. The LOFTID device flew into space and returned on November 10, according to Space.com.
The saucer splashed down safely into the Pacific Ocean.
Splashdown during flight tests of an inflatable moderator in low Earth orbit was performed nose down as planned. It was even raised in the ocean, about 800 km from Hawaii, which is a further achievement for the engineering team.
“This is one of the most important technologies that we are implementing today on this mission, and on this first successful flight and orbital recovery,” said Jim Reuters, NASA Associate Administrator, Space Technology Mission Directorate.
After deploying to space, the agency visually confirmed LOFTID’s full inflation live at an altitude of about 125 km. This marks the beginning of re-entry into the environment. The telemetry was briefly lost as the demonstrator returned to Earth, but everything worked out in the end.
It is known that the inflatable technology splashed down only eight kilometers from the Kahana II rescue vessel, making it easy to retrieve. So LOFTID ditched its flight recorder, as planned, to collect data.
“It’s a great, great opportunity to get flight data and see how it actually works. We know it’s worked well enough to make it great,” the agency said.
It is worth emphasizing that LOFTID’s value is $93 million. It was launched along with the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2). The craft is an expandable aerodynamic shell designed to slow the spacecraft’s entry into the Martian sky and reduce the amount of heat generated by atmospheric friction.
NASA says this technology is one of the solutions for landing in the ultra-thin Martian atmosphere. This is why the landing is particularly delicate, as the spacecraft encounters only a small drag force compared to the Earth’s atmosphere.
Recall that the Perseverance rover on the Red Planet recorded the solar halo.
Two large meteorites hit Mars
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