By Amanda Kooser
To test new tech for future Mars missions, NASA builds an experimental rocket-powered flight vehicle that looks like it could be a UFO.The classic UFO is a flying saucer, an alien spacecraft that looks impossible, like it must be the product of advanced technology from a distant civilization. The whole UFO phenomenon is about to get much more down-to-Earth with NASA's new test vehicle, a crazy-looking experiment scheduled for a test flight in early June.
NASA's creation sports an unwieldy name. The Supersonic Flight Dynamics Test Vehicle is part of the agency's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project. It comes equipped with a Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute and a Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, which is a large Kevlar tube. You may notice a supersonic theme here. The idea is to find new ways to safely deliver payloads onto the surfaces of planets like Mars.
The test vehicle is designed to pull some pretty impressive stunts. The test launch will start with a balloon ride up to 120,000 feet. From there, it will be deployed to set off its booster rocket and shoot upward to 180,000 feet while approaching Mach 4. Suddenly, that Six Flags roller-coaster ride you screamed your head off about looks pretty tame. . . .
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