NASA is building its own flying saucer as part of a project to get bigger payloads to Mars. The disk-shaped object is called a Low Density Supersonic Decelerator due to fly for the first time this June.
During its Mach 3.5 descent, it will inflate like a pufferfish to increase atmospheric drag, slowing its speed to about twice the speed of sound. That will trigger the deployment of a super-strong 100-foot-wide (33.5-meter-wide) parachute, which should slow down the test vehicle.
NASA had to use a complex, rocket-powered sky crane to get its 1-ton Curiosity rover safely down to the surface of Mars in 2012, but the payloads required for human missions to Mars are expected to weigh significantly more. The sky-crane system can’t handle payloads that heavy.
Via NBC News.