Check out NASA's new flying saucer that could help astronauts explore Mars

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May 21, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT (Updated)

Though it seems like most of the momentum is coming from the private sector these days, NASA is still working on some cool space gadgets — including this one that could help us get to Mars.

The space agency is preparing to test an inflatable, saucer-shaped vehicle that officials say could help astronauts explore the surface of Mars. Dubbed the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle, the device is fully assembled at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

The purpose of the LDSD is to slow the descent of extremely heavy payloads in the extremely thin atmosphere of other planets such as Mars. Officials say the device could come in handy when trying to deliver items such as human habitat components for a camp or permanent base, according to Space

Basically, the idea is to develop a 100-foot-wide parachute along with two Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators (SIADs) so heavy items could be safely landed on the surface of an alien planet. If it all works out, this thing could carry the stuff we’ll use to build a future city on Mars in a few decades.

NASA used similar technology to land the 1-ton Curiosity rover safely on the Martian surface back in 2012, but that mission essentially hit the ceiling of what current equipment could handle. So the space agency will need something with a higher weight limit for future human missions. That's where the LDSD comes in.

The tech will get its first chance to prove it can handle Mars during an initial flight trial on June 3, when NASA will use a balloon to carry it 23 miles above the Earth, where the atmosphere is thin enough to compare it to Mars, then crank it down at Mach 4 to see how the LDSD performs in slowing the descent. If that sounds awesome, you’re in luck, because NASA reportedly plans to live-stream the test.

Do you think this device is the solution to getting us to the Martian surface safely?

(Via Space)

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