By Michelle Botello
NASA is scheduled to launch a rocket towards Mars in March. This project will be carried out to evaluate the strengthened parachute from the test that ran earlier this year.
The project is called (ASPIRE), Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. The latter test rocket was launched in October 4 and it was a 58-foot tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket launched from Wallops to check for the performance of the ASPIRE. The NASA Langley Research Center and the Wallops Flight Facility are supporting the test.
The parachute is due to reach up to 32 miles two minutes into the flight. The rest is due to splash down in the ocean 40 miles from Wallops Island and return to Wallops for inspection. These items include the load, which holds the parachute and acts as its deployment mechanism and equipment, including cameras to record data.
NASA ran a project that took a probe to Mars. This probe is named IRVE. Last July, IRVE-3, an inflatable heat shield that could be used to protect the spacecraft when entering a planet's atmosphere or coming back to Earth was successful. IRVE-3 was ejected into the hemisphere where it inflated and fell back to Earth. Cameras and sensors detected a total of 20 minutes and a landing in the Atlantic about 100 miles east of North Carolina.
The NASA rover mission linked to the latest testing is due to launch in 2020. It will need that parachute to slow down as it enters the Martian atmosphere because it will be speeding at 12,000 miles per hour.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Office of Communications officer Keith A. Koehler said in an email, “The results from the last time test in fall came out about a month later. I would expect the same for this test. The launch has not yet occurred. We are currently scheduled for no earlier than Friday, March 30. Backup launch days run through April 10.”
The purpose of the mission, once they reach Mars, is to detect any Martian life on the planet, and take rock samples for future returns to Earth.