Is it just my imagination?
Or does that thing look like the worlds largest and most high tech jet propelled custard pie?
Given my handle around here I have a vested interest in such matters ;)
Today's planned launch of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) has been cancelled, meaning that ballocket fans have once again been denied the thrill of seeing a mighty 963,000m3 helium-filled orb lift a rocket-powered flying saucer into the upper atmosphere. NASA had its LDSD all prepped and ready to roll yesterday, …
NASA is trying to get a more-general capability for Mars landings, particularly with heavier payloads and higher martian-altitude landing sites.
Using rockets all the way down would require a substantial fuel supply for those long burns, there is enough atmosphere on Mars to cause the burns to start early and run for a long time.
Using parachutes all the way down leaves a lot of energy to be dissipated by short-burn rockets or rockets+bags. This is acute for higher-altitude landings and/or massive probe landings.
Both Viking and MSL were just under 1 ton. With larger loads, this kind of hybrid air-friction tool saves precious weight on fuel and large landing rockets. It will be cool on probes anticipated for 2020 and beyond.
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