NASA’s future plans looked like the science fiction of old as they aim to use a saucer-shaped spacecraft in a manned mission to Mars. The mission is schedule to launch in 2030, with the initial testing of crafts to be used started this year.
Before, NASA showed a model of what they hope the spacecraft would look like with the thrusters at the middle bottom of the ship’s body. Just yesterday, the 7,000-pound, 15 feet wide prototype was tested in their Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The scientists are trying to come up with alternatives to the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) program.
The primary objective is to slow down the craft so that a 30.5-meter parachute can take over the landing responsibilities. NASA has two models currently on test, an 8-meter and a 6-metersaucer. They want to figure out which is the optimal weight and shape because a bigger ship will be harder to land.
One of the bigger problems they face is balance. All of the spacecraft sent before take the rocket shape, which is tall and skinny, making acceleration easy. The craft is horizontal fundamentally, which hinders aerodynamics.
Nevertheless, NASA will continue with its plan to actually launch the flying saucer in June. They already conducted a pre-test last year where it fell near space orbit.
The next few years will be busy for NASA as they intend to follow their schedule. New Horizons, a spacecraft launched in 2006, will pass the extra-solar planet Pluto and its moons this year. Next year, Juno will be launched to conduct initial studies on Jupiter’s surface while the InSight mission will place a lander on Mars to investigate the Red Planet’s interior.
In 2017 is when humans will commence its most ambitious treks into outer space. TESS will come into orbit looking for exoplanets that resemble Earth that orbit their own stars. The year after that, NASA will dispatch the successor for the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Telescope. In the same year, solar scientists will get a chance to investigate the sun up-close with the Solar Probe Plus.
The space agency aims to get OSIRIS-Rex in 2023. It will bring back sample from a primitive asteroid named “1999 RQ36”. On the other hand, the second Mars Rover will reach Mars by 2020 and collect pieces of Mars that could help advance technology here at home.