WATCH: NASA Tests New Mars Braking System : The Two-Way The saucer-like Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator went up 190,000 feet to simulate the conditions of an orbital entry at the red planet.
NPR logo WATCH: NASA Tests New Mars Braking System

WATCH: NASA Tests New Mars Braking System

Test of the flying-saucer-like Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD).

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory YouTube

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released a video of its test of a new inflatable braking system designed to land heavy payloads on Mars.

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator was carried aloft by a balloon and then rocketed to an altitude of 190,000 feet above Hawaii. As Discovery News explains: "The thin air and low pressure at that altitude is as close as engineers can come to simulating flight in Mars' atmosphere."

Everything went well right up to the deployment of the parachute, which was ripped to shreds.

As The Los Angeles Times says: "the 100-foot wide parachute did not behave as the engineers had hoped. It began to fray and tear as soon as it unfurled behind the 7,000-pound vehicle plummeting to Earth."

Even so, engineers say the test was a success.