Out of this World
On June 28, NASA successfully test-launched a saucer-shaped craft that could one day be used to transport astronauts to Mars. An enormous helium balloon carried the "Low Density Supersonic Decelerator" 23 miles into the air, where it then got a boost from a rocket engine before an inflatable ring started the craft's deceleration on its return plummet into the Pacific Ocean.
While the Los Angeles Times notes that the craft's final braking component, a 100-foot-wide parachute, frayed and tore as it dropped, scientists said they were very pleased with the first test.
It sounds interesting and all, but wouldn't it be better if you could see the test in action? Now you can. NASA released a high-definition video, below, of the event, narrated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Ian Clark. The footage is intense, and makes for a science lesson fascinating enough to rustle up long-forgotten astronaut ambitions — check it out for yourself. --Sarah Eberspacher