30 June 2014
Following several weather delays, NASA on Saturday launched a helium balloon carrying a saucer-shaped vehicle high into Earth's atmosphere to test technology that could someday be used to land on Mars. After taking off at 11:40 a.m. from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, the balloon boosted the disc-shaped vehicle over the Pacific, where its rocket motor ignited, carrying the vehicle 34 miles high at supersonic speeds. As the vehicle prepared to drop back to Earth, a tube around it expanded, creating atmospheric drag to dramatically slow it down from Mach 4, or four times the speed of sound. The vehicle splashed down about three hours later. At 110 feet in diameter, the parachute is twice as big as the one that carried the Curiosity rover through the Martian atmosphere in 2011. (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info > (NBC News)
More Info > (Los Angeles Times)