Nasa tests 'flying saucer' spaceship for future Mars missions

UFO-shaped spacecraft could be critical for future manned mission to the red planet

Nasa's LDSD flying saucer
(Image credit: Nasa)

Nasa has successfully tested a flying saucer-shaped spacecraft which it hopes will help manned missions to Mars land safely on the red planet.

First test flight of our Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator a success yesterday: #LDSD — NASA (@NASA) June 29, 2014

After several delays due to bad weather, the test craft was launched from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range facility in Hawaii on Saturday.

The spacecraft, known as the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), was launched by using a giant balloon large enough to fill a football stadium. The LDSD then separated from the balloon and "powered flight" began more than 20 miles above earth, CNN reports.

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Two new landing techniques were being tested. One involves a doughnut-shaped tube which inflates to slowed the craft down, and gives the craft a UFO-like appearance. A parachute, the largest ever used by Nasa, was meant to continue to decrease the speed of the craft, but it failed to deploy as expected, the agency reported.

The mission ended with the craft falling into the Pacific Ocean where Nasa staff were waiting to collect the debris.

The goal of the mission was to test new technologies which will increase the payload that can be taken onboard. Nasa says the developments are critical in enabling the delivery of supplies needed for long duration missions to the red planet.

"We are thrilled about yesterday's test," said Mark Adler, LDSD's project manager said in a Nasa statement. "The test vehicle worked beautifully, and we met all of our flight objectives."

Nasa has now finished recovering all of the vehicle hardware and data recorders from the Pacific Ocean and will use the lessons learned from this mission to improve future flights.

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