NASA to conduct Mars 'flying saucer' test on Earth

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NASA to conduct Mars 'flying saucer' test on Earth
Journalists dressed in special suits are briefed inside the Clean Room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project on April 9, 2014. The rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle will soon be sent to Hawaii from where it will be propelled into near-space in June from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD project is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth, and also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists dressed in special suits are briefed inside the Clean Room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project on April 9, 2014. The rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle will soon be sent to Hawaii from where it will be propelled into near-space in June from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD project is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth, and also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Mark Adler (L), LDSD Technology Demonstration Mission Manager chats with Jeffrey Sheehy (R), Senior Technical Officer of Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), visiting from NASA Headquarters, as journalists dressed in special suits are briefed inside the Clean Room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project on April 9, 2014. The rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle will soon be sent to Hawaii from where it will be propelled into near-space in June from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD project is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth, and also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists dressed in special suits are briefed inside the Clean Room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project on April 9, 2014. The rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle will soon be sent to Hawaii from where it will be propelled into near-space in June from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD project is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth, and also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists dressed in special suits are briefed inside the Clean Room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project on April 9, 2014. The rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle will soon be sent to Hawaii from where it will be propelled into near-space in June from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD project is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth, and also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists dressed in special suits are briefed inside the Clean Room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project on April 9, 2014. The rocket-powered, flying saucer-shaped test vehicle will soon be sent to Hawaii from where it will be propelled into near-space in June from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai. The LDSD project is aimed at enabling large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth, and also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) - NASA is getting ready to launch a "flying saucer" into Earth's atmosphere to test technology that could be used to land on Mars.

For decades, NASA has depended on the same parachute design to slow spacecraft after they enter the Martian atmosphere. But it needs a larger and stronger parachute if it wants to land heavier objects and astronauts.

On Wednesday, weather permitting, a balloon carrying the saucer-shaped vehicle is set to launch from Hawaii. Then the vehicle will ignite its rocket engine and climb to 34 miles. It will inflate a tube to slow itself down from supersonic speeds and unfurl a parachute for a water landing.

Engineers will analyze the data to determine if the test was successful. The test has been postponed several times because of winds.



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