Sunday May 27, 2018

NASA’s Flying Saucer: Space agency set for revolutionary low-density supersonic decelerator test flight

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Image: NASA

Washington: NASA is all set to test its low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD) – a flying saucer designed to check out landing technologies for future Mars missions – over Hawaii.

If weather permits, the LDSD test vehicle will be carried aloft by a large weather balloon at 10 p.m. (Indian standard time) on Tuesday from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

For more than two hours, the balloon will carry the test vehicle to an altitude of 120,000 feet.

The tracking cameras NASA has employed for the test are expected to keep the balloon and test vehicle in their sights for about 30 minutes after launch, the US space agency said in a statement.

After reaching a height of 180,000 feet, a doughnut-shaped airbag will inflate around the saucer for its descent to earth.

The saucer is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean about two hours and 15 minutes after launch.

“The test is centred on how our newly-designed supersonic parachute will perform. We think we have a great design ready for the challenge, but the proof is in the pudding and the pudding will be made live for everyone to see,” said Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In order to support a human mission to the Red Planet, NASA needs technologies capable of landing between 20 to 30 metric tonnes on the Martian surface.

The LDSD supports payloads of two to three tonnes, doubling the current capabilities.

During the test flight, viewers will see live, low-resolution images from high over the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

Four cameras aboard the test vehicle will provide the LDSD mission team with different perspectives on the test.

The LDSD mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, and also will allow access to more of the planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. (IANS)

 

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars. Pixabay

After a mechanical problem took NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s drill offline in December 2016, it has now successfully tested a new drilling method on the Red Planet, making a 50-millimetre deep hole in a target called “Duluth”, NASA has said.

Engineers working with the Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them.

On May 20, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill’s bit extended out past two stabiliser posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks.

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

“The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful,” Lee said.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity’s capabilities to study Mars.

Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples.

The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

“We’ve been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn’t done once a sample has been collected on Mars,” said JPL’s Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity’s new drilling method.

Also Read: NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the Sun Will Carry 1.1 mn Names

“With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process.”

There’s also the next step to work on — delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover’s laboratories, NASA said. (IANS)

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