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Supersonic 'Flying Saucer' Video Released By Nasa
Footage of a supersonic "flying saucer" has been released by Nasa, as the agency attempts to find a process for landing heavier spacecraft on Mars.
The video of the spinning saucer, launched from Hawaii, shows it being shot 120,000ft into orbit by a giant balloon.
Officially called a Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, the spacecraft is part of a system designed to slow down landings in space.
The device borrows the rapid inflation technique of the Hawaiian puffer fish to slow the landing - reducing its velocity from four times the speed of sound to two and a half times the speed of sound.
The footage, shot on June 28, shows a giant parachute being shot out once the slower speed is reached and then being ripped to pieces as the spacecraft punches a hole in the atmosphere.
Landing exploratory vehicles on Mars presents greater problems than landing spacecraft on Earth because the planet's atmosphere is much thinner.
Giant parachutes, several times the size of those used for Earth landings, and a deceleration device are needed to put the brakes on so that rovers can be landed on the Red Planet safely and in one piece.
Nasa is working on the system because future missions to Mars will need heavier landers than the current one-ton Curiosity Rover.