published Saturday, June 28th, 2014

NASA to test Mars 'flying saucer' vehicle on Earth

  • photo
    Workmen unload a saucer-shaped test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, at the U.S Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kekaha on the island of Kaua‘i in Hawaii in this April 17, 2014, NASA image.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

LOS ANGELES — After several weather delays, NASA will try to launch a "flying saucer" into Earth's atmosphere Saturday to test technology that could be used to land on Mars.

The attempt off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai will test the disc-shaped vehicle and a giant parachute.

Since the 1970s, NASA has used the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers as they streak through the thin Martian atmosphere. With plans to send heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts, the space agency needs a much stronger parachute.

NASA is testing the technology high in Earth's atmosphere because conditions there are similar to that of Mars.

High winds at the Kauai military range forced NASA to miss its original two-week launch window in June.

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