Don't worry, Earthlings, this is not a flying saucer, though it may someday help colonize a distant world. NASA is test-dropping a new and improved parachute system, simulating space in the thin high-atmospheric air over the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The supersonic parachute, twice the size of the current parachute used to land the Martian rovers on the red planet, will be tested today in hopes that larger payloads (hopefully someday to include humans) can be delivered safely to Mars.
Robert Braun, a former NASA technology chief and current space technology professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, says the new tests are "advancing capabilities and creating the engineering knowledge needed for the next generation of Mars landers."
With the space agency's funds and efforts frequently embattled by political issues, it is inspiring to see them looking towards a major project for the future.