For a Mars mission: This more than 17-meter parachute unfolds in record time!

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NASA is currently working consistently to advance the exploration of Mars. In two years’ time, an unmanned spacecraft called Mars 2020 will land on the red planet. It is planned that the parachute will open about 10,000 meters above the surface of Mars at the speed of sound. In this way, the spacecraft is slowed down and a landing becomes possible. Project Manager John McNamee sums up the problem of this approach in one sentence: “We only have one parachute and it has to work.” The engineers involved have therefore already started a number of tests some time ago. In addition to the high speed, there are two other challenges: First, Mars 2020 is to carry more weight than ever before on the red planet.

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The parachute unfolded within a fraction of a second

To simulate the conditions, the parachute was brought to a height of 38,000 meters by a rocket. There, the cargo was then decoupled from the rocket and the interceptor activated. The experiment worked: Within just 0.4 seconds, the parachute unfolded to its full size of 17.70 meters. The wing had to withstand tensile forces of up to 32,000 kilograms – around 85 percent more than in the planned landing on Mars. This was made possible by the use of the right material: the parachute consists of a mixture of fibers of nylon, technora and kevlar. The tests at this level were successfully completed. Now the parachute on earth is to be given its final touch and finally tested once again in the lower stratosphere.

China also wants to Mars in the long-term

Anyway, NASA was very happy with the way the experiment went. Project Manager McNamee commented “The ASPIRE tests have shown amazing detail on how our parachute will respond when first deployed during a supersonic flight high above Mars. And let me say one thing: It looks beautiful. “Even more important to the engineers involved, however, is the fact that the parachute will bring the cargo of Mars 2020 safely to its destination. The experiment now carried out should have encouraged the developers in their confidence. However, this United States is not the only nation working on a Mars probe. Similar projects are also known by the European Space Agency and China.

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