NASA sets record with ‘supersonic’ parachute for Mars 2020 mission

James Marshall
November 1, 2018

"Mars 2020 will be carrying the heaviest payload yet to the surface of Mars, and like all our prior Mars missions, we only have one parachute and it has to work", said John McNamee, project manager of Mars 2020 at JPL.

NASA said Friday its Mars 2020 parachute is ready for duty. "And let me tell you, it looks lovely", added McNamee.

The object, dubbed ASPIRE (Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiments), unfolded from a small cylinder to a massive parachute, weighing over 80 kilograms (180 pounds), in just four-tenths of a second. In order to land their heaviest yet rover on Mars, NASA had to redesign an existing landing-parachute design - the same one that protected the Curiosity rover - with even stronger materials, including the Kevlar traditionally found in bulletproof vests.

NASA's "supersonic parachute" that will play a key role in landing its state-of-the-art Mars 2020 rover has created a world record by deploying in just four-tenths of a second and surviving 37,000 kg load, the USA space agency said. The payload featuring the parachute separated from the aforementioned rocket only two minutes after it launched from Earth.

While one of these was nearly an exact copy of the parachute used for NASA's Mars Science Lab, the other had stronger materials and stitching.

National Aeronautics and space research presented a new development which will be useful and important for the mission, gathered to "conquer" Mars.

The 37,000-kg load was the highest ever survived by a supersonic parachute.

With the ASPIRE tests complete, the endeavors of Clark and his compatriots will be confined to the lower part of the stratosphere for the time being.

'We are all about helping 2020 stick its landing 28 months from now, ' Clark said.

Jet Propulsion Lab, which handles the project, says that management has convened and given ASPIRE the green light to join the Mars 2020 mission.

NASA tested the chute with a payload launched from a Black Brant IX sounding rocket. While interviews with aerospace engineers and rocket scientists may not sound like the most scintillating podcast, it is a surprisingly captivating story, as the odds of Insight reaching the surface safely are slim, since fewer than half of Mars missions make it.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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