EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

June 13, 2014

NASA hopes to launch 'flying saucer' after delay

LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA hopes to try again to launch a “flying saucer” into Earth’s atmosphere to test Mars mission technology after losing the chance because of bad weather, project managers said Thursday.

The space agency is working with the U.S. Navy on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to see if it can get the experimental flight off the ground in late June.

During the current two-week launch window, the team came “tantalizingly close,” but winds spoiled every opportunity, said project manager Mark Adler of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Winds must be calm for a helium balloon to carry the disc-shaped vehicle over the Pacific so it doesn’t stray into no-fly zones.

“We’re ready to go. We’re not giving up,” Adler said.

NASA has invested $150 million in the project so far, and extending the launch window would come with some cost. If the flight doesn’t happen this summer, it would be postponed until next year.

The mission is designed to test a new supersonic vehicle and giant parachute in Earth’s stratosphere where conditions are similar to the red planet.

For decades, NASA relied on the same parachute design to slow spacecraft streaking through the thin Martian atmosphere. The 1-ton Curiosity rover that landed in 2012 used the same basic parachute as the twin Viking landers in 1976.

With plans to land heavier payloads and eventually astronauts, NASA needed to develop new drag devices and a stronger parachute.

Measuring 110 feet in diameter, the new parachute is twice as large as the one that carried Curiosity. Since it can’t fit in a wind tunnel where NASA does its traditional testing, engineers looked toward the skies off Kauai.

NASA had rigged the test vehicle with several GoPro cameras with the hope that viewers would follow the action live online.

Project scientist Ian Clark called the weather delay “hardly even a hiccup” in the long road to landing spacecraft on Earth’s planetary neighbor.

“We’re still very enthusiastic,” Clark said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
World/National News

Latest U.S. News
Holder Pledges Top Investigators for Ferguson US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Changes Coming to No-Fly List Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Arrests Witnessed in Ferguson Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape Texas Gov. Perry: Indictment 'a Political Act' US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading Heavy Rains Flood Arizona Roads Video Shows Ferguson Cop Months Before Shooting US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah
Latest World News
Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Raw: Deadly Landslides in Japan Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Today in History August 20 US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing Rockets Fired From Gaza, in Breach of Ceasefire Raw: Japanese Military Live Fire Exercise Today in History August 19 Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Crosses Into Ukraine Raw: Building Collapse in South Africa, 9 Dead Assange Gets Cryptic About Leaving Embassy in UK Raw: Pope Francis Meets 'Comfort Women' Kurdish Peshmergas Retake Mosul Dam WikiLeaks Founder Says He'll Leave Embassy Soon Raw: Israel Destroys Killing Suspects' Homes
Photos of the Week