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The parachute of Mars 2020 is ready to go




During a test on September 7, this high-definition video took on the parachute that will carry the Mars 2020 mission through the atmosphere of the Red Planet.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

When the Rover Mars 2020 arrives at the Red Planet, it will need a working parachute. Fortunately, in a record-breaking test on Sept. 7, NASA confirmed that the parachute designed to allow the rover to travel most of the way to the Martian surface is ready to do its job.

The test began with the launch of a Black Brant IX sounding rocket; Less than two minutes after takeoff, the payload carrying the parachute separated from the rocket and began to fall back to earth. As he passed a height of 38 km at a speed of 1

.8 Mach (1890 miles per hour [2,200 kph]), the 82 kg heavy parachute was triggered. And only four-tenths of a second later – the fastest inflation ever achieved on such a parachute – it had deployed to its full diameter, generating a peak load of 67,000 pounds (30,000 kg) of power. This is a second record: the highest charge ever survived by a supersonic parachute. [3/23/004] On October 3, the Mars 2020 mission forces confirmed that the nylon technora kevlar chute had passed all the required tests and was ready for use.

A single shot

Why all the excitement about a parachute? "Mars 2020 will bring the heaviest payload to the surface of Mars, and like all our previous Mars missions, we just have a parachute and it needs to work," said John McNamee, project manager at Mars 2020 of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL ) in a press release. Therefore, the tested peak load was also 85 percent higher than the researchers expect in the real landing on Mars.

Testing a parachute intended for another planet here on Earth is difficult, but not impossible, as long as you choose the right conditions. "The Earth's atmosphere near the surface is about 100 times more dense than near the surface of Mars," explains JPL's Ian Clark, the technical lead of the test. "But high up – about 37 km – the atmospheric density on Earth is very similar to 10 miles above Mars, which happens to be the altitude at which Mars 2020 will deploy its parachute."

Stick the landing

The parachute may be ready to go, but it's only part of the rover's landing system. Like the Curiosity rover before, Mars 2020 will use a sinking vehicle and a sky crane that will hover above the surface and lower the rover the rest of the way to the ground. While complex, this approach allows mission members to bring the heavy rover to the surface much more accurately than a parachute alone. In light of the recent debate over the rover's landing site, it is extremely important to mark this landing.

In addition to its new, stronger parachute, the mission will also include a package of new technologies for entry, landing and landing, including systems that allow the rover to divert to difficult or dangerous terrain on its way through the Martian atmosphere Surface. "We're all in the process of helping to land in 28 months in 2020," Clark said.


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