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NASA's Test Bed For Mars Chute: Kauai

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the sounds-like-a-fun-ride dept.

Mars 40

An Associated Press story, as carried by the Philadelphia Inquirer, says that NASA plans to test this Tuesday on the Hawaiian island of Kauai a huge (110' diameter) parachute intended as a means to land big loads (like astronauts) on the surface of Mars. Says the story: "The skies off the Hawaiian island of Kauai will be a stand-in for Mars as NASA prepares to launch a saucer-shaped vehicle in an experimental flight designed to land heavy loads on the red planet. For decades, robotic landers and rovers have hitched a ride to Earth's planetary neighbor using the same parachute design. But NASA needs a bigger and stronger parachute if it wants to send astronauts there. ... During the flight, a high-flying balloon will loft the disc-shaped vehicle from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai to 23 miles over the Pacific where it will be dropped. Then it will fire its rocket motor to climb to 34 miles, accelerating to Mach 4. The environment at this altitude is similar to Mars' thin atmosphere. As it descends to Earth, a tube around the vehicle should inflate, slowing it down. Then the parachute should pop out, guiding the vehicle to a gentle splashdown in the Pacific."

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Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (5, Funny)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 4 months ago | (#47144621)

Rather than Ridgecrest, California. I can practically hear the discussion now...

Scientist 1: So, we need to test this thing. I suppose we could talk to the folks at China Lake. It's nearby and cheap. We can stay at the Motel 6 in Ridgecrest.
Scientist 2: Yeah, we could do that, or have the Pacific dudes fire it over HAWAII and we get to hang out in Kawaii!!!!
Scientist 1: But that's expensive.
Scientist 2: Fuck that - it's HAWAII!!! It's in the USA! Good enough!
Scientist 1: Yeah, but...
Scientist 2: But nothin' dude - have you even been to Kawaii?
Scientist 1: No, but....
Scientist 2: but nothin' it's awesome. And it beats the living fuck out of Ridgecrest. You ever been to Ridgecrest?
Scientist 1: Yeah. It's hot. Out in the desert.
Scientist 2: Yeah, AND IT SUCKS! They have earthquakes like every other day out there. It's a miserable hell hole that's only rivaled by Barstow and Needles.
Scientist 1: Well, its not pretty, but it is nearby, and I don't think the test cares if we shoot it over Kawaii or Death Valley, really.
Scientist 2: The test won't but everyone on the team will. Kawaii is fucking AWESOME DUDE!
Scientist 1: We can meet budget.
Scientist 2: We can SURF!
Scientist 1: OK, let's ask another team mate. What do you think?
Scientist 3: What, do I look stupid? Fuck Ridgecrest - YOLO baby - let's go to Hawaii!!!
Scientist 1: Sigh....

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144673)

paging christopher columbus...

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (1)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#47144719)

Kauai is very pretty, the weather on the South and East sides of the island is gorgeous. Unfortunately PMRF is on the West side at the extreme end of the road, pretty far away from the populated side. There's a cool bar in Port Allen though, so it's not so bad even away from everyone and in the relative heat.

I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (3, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47144839)

Given that they have launched Polaris missiles from PMRF Barking Sands this isolation is a feature, not a bug. You can go to the Barking Sands beach there at the state park a little North of the base.

About 25 years ago there was big dustup when the Air Force planned some missile launches from Barking Sands that would have required closing the park during launch days, and they neglected to tell the State Parks Department about it on the Environmental Impact Statement. That was a very bad move, and cost the Air Force a good deal of time and money once it hit the press.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (2)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#47146335)

Barking Sands itself is now closed to anyone but military personnel and to local residents that have applied for and received advance permission to use it from the base commander. Island visitors cannot go there as visitors to the base are only allowed into specific authorized areas and are escorted while there. One can still visit Polihale to the north, but the road getting there is very hard on rental cars.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (1)

orgelspieler (865795) | about 4 months ago | (#47147697)

One can still visit Polihale to the north, but the road getting there is very hard on rental cars.

In fact, most rental car companies give you a map that says, "If you go past here, we will fine you $XXX." Never tested it out, but I was tempted.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (1)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#47148159)

Only road in HI that I encountered with that proscription was on Oahu, where part of the coastal ring-road had fallen into the sea but was still marked on some maps.

The path to Polihale is itself part of the park, and there were no prohibitions on going out there as far as I could tell.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47145949)

The best part of the island IMO is Kokee State Park on the west side. On one side of the road you have Waimea Canyon, on the other side, hikes down ridges to the tallest sea cliffs in the world. Beyond the end of the road is the wettest spot on earth.

Best of all, you can rent 1 of the 8 cabins in the State Park for about $35/night. Not only is it the cheapest accommodation in Hawai'i, but you can start your hiking a couple hours before everyone else arrives. I loved the fact that you'll see so few people on an all-day hike.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (1)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47146309)

If you go the the second Waimea lookout on the road up the canyon (the upper one), walk all the way out to the lookout site, and look to your left, you can see the Navy VLBI telescope (a 20 meter dish) poking above the trees on the ridge above you. The Hawaii State Parks Department made the Navy paint it a light green to disguise it, and I bet not one tourist in 100 notices it's there.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#47147671)

>Kauai is very pretty,

Not after the test probe explodes, scattering burning, toxic, radioactive, heavy metal detritus all over the the island burning the whole place to a barren toxic wasteland.
   

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47145285)

Actually went more like this....

A rocket on a balloon? That sounds crazy dangerous. How about flying it in White Sands NM? Too much population? Damnit! how about off the coast of california on that damn island? Damnit - LA is in the overflight during 20% of the climbout. I got it - How about the middle of nowhwere - Woomera Australia! Hell NO - there's no people there for a reason and we need network and TV! I got it - Lets go to Kauai!

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146163)

You left out the part where President Obama needs an excuse to visit his ranch, oops I mean home town.

Well that and it's so darned cost efficient.

Re:Sounds like a trip to Hawaii (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 months ago | (#47146617)

Let's just be grateful these scientists are not researching WMDs.

I Am 12 And This is Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144707)

Huh huh huh. He said 'big loads'. Huh huh huh.
Heh heh. Loads! Heh heh.

Re:I Am 12 And This is Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144913)

I tested your mom's chute in her bed last nigh..erm yeasterday...or sumpthin

Martian UFO? (0)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about 4 months ago | (#47144789)

On Soviet Mars, Earthlings land on Mars in flying saucer?

Re:Martian UFO? (1)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | about 4 months ago | (#47144821)

UFO stands for "Unidentified Flying Object" and makes no implication of spaceborne craft.

Republicans... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144801)

have spend the last forty years murdering his kind. That is why no one with experience is left on the space program.. The Republicans have murdered all of them just as they have tried to murder me. That is the way of their kind. They hate science and want to prevent scientific advancement.

It's okay. (2)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#47144925)

Relax. Settle down.

Stay right where you are. Now, just a little further to the left . . .

Re:It's okay. (1)

fnj (64210) | about 4 months ago | (#47145153)

You are so mean! You knew that would happen. He fell off the left edge to the Great Left Abyss.

Not surprising they'll use PMRF Barking Sands (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47144825)

The PMRF at Barking Sands in Kauai is a very well instrumented range that is set up to observe navy exercises in the waters off Kauai, things flying overhead (such as missiles launched in California), and things launched on the beach at Barking Sands (such as this test), so it is not surprising to me that this test is being run there. There is a long history of NASA - Navy collaboration there - back in the shuttle days, the GSTDN station at Kokee Park (a NASA outpost in a PMRF enclave up Waimea Canyon above the beach) would routinely track shuttles coming in for reentry in California, and there is now a Navy VLBI antenna operated by NASA contractors there.

By the way, it is called Barking Sands because pebbles on the beach make a sound something like seals barking when waves hit them.

Re:Not surprising they'll use PMRF Barking Sands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47145021)

. . . Or maybe, seals make a barking sound because for hundreds of years, they've heard the sound of waves breaking on the pebbles.

Re:Not surprising they'll use PMRF Barking Sands (1)

Extide (1002782) | about 4 months ago | (#47145045)

"...back in the shuttle days..." sigh :/

Ugh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144879)

She brings unhappiness and difficulty to Republican "couples." This is why we should support this.

But Republicans... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144923)

do not believe that other planets exist so I cannot imagine their kind allow this.

Re:But Republicans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47144999)

I had a comment, but I can't find the login form on the Beta. What a clusterfuck!

Fucking howlies (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 4 months ago | (#47145057)

Now Nasa wan't to bring Martian tourists into our island

Re:Fucking howlies (2)

internerdj (1319281) | about 4 months ago | (#47146491)

You aren't fooling us. Every one of us with kids has seen the documentary Lilo and Stitch. There are already aliens on Hawaii.

Re: howlies (2)

laie_techie (883464) | about 4 months ago | (#47146765)

You should know that ha`ole means "without the breath of life" (eg. soulless). It arose because Hawaiians (and most Polynesians) greet each other by smelling this breath of life (you'll see us put our heads near the other person's neck and inhale). Ha`ole shake hands instead, so the natives assumed they didn't have souls. Of course, today ha`ole is used for any light-skinned individual - including those whose families have been in the Islands for generations. Eighty percent of the time I heard it, it was more charged than the "n" word in English.

Media Day on monday (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47145291)

http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2

Gravity? (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 4 months ago | (#47145605)

" The environment at this altitude is similar to Mars' thin atmosphere"

Yes, but mars gravity is 1/3rd earths so presumably they'll be testing with only 1/3rd the weight slung under the chute?

Re:Gravity? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47146525)

There was a documentary on the making of the chute for one of the rovers. Yes, they have all that down. It's a tad more complicated than just 1/3rd the weight though. The atmospheres way way thinner than earths as well so the chute doesn't work as efficiently. The most dangerous bit is the opening. The things coming in at an insane speed and if the chute opens incorrectly it can rip itself to threads.

Re:Gravity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146805)

On the flip side, Mars' atmosphere is also thousands of times less dense than Earth's.

Why not collect energy on the way down and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47146285)

Considering that the most problematic aspect of landing
on a planet is a surplus of (kinetic) energy, why not find
a way to take a long glide through the atmosphere while
converting some of that energy and storing it in a form
that can power a propeller, rocket engine or other device
to slow down the last phase of descent? The air friction
from this energy collecting phase would also serve to slow
down the descent, making the final phase all the easier.

  As far as forms of energy which could be converted to for
storage: there's the possibility of converting CO2 to carbon
carbon monoxide and oxygen; there's charging batteries to
power a helicopter propeller; and ...?
I don't suggest that these are practical methods of storing
and using surplus energy --- they're just starting points.

Re:Why not collect energy on the way down and... (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | about 4 months ago | (#47146887)

Considering that the most problematic aspect of landing on a planet is a surplus of (kinetic) energy, why not find a way to take a long glide through the atmosphere while converting some of that energy and storing it in a form that can power a propeller, rocket engine or other device to slow down the last phase of descent? The air friction from this energy collecting phase would also serve to slow down the descent, making the final phase all the easier.

As far as forms of energy which could be converted to for storage: there's the possibility of converting CO2 to carbon carbon monoxide and oxygen; there's charging batteries to power a helicopter propeller; and ...? I don't suggest that these are practical methods of storing and using surplus energy --- they're just starting points.

Hmmm, I wonder if some of the principles of scramjet design could be used in reverse for braking? If you're making compressed O2, you'll need a way to bottle it in a hurry without creating excessive hazards for the crew. Anyhow, I'm glad someone's finally recasting the term "Martian flying saucers".

As long as ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#47146625)

... we can observe the test from the golf course at Princeville, it sounds good to me.

I need to check if my license plate is still on the wall at Brick Oven Pizza (locals will get this).

What is SpaceX doing? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 4 months ago | (#47146979)

Not sure I'd want to ride the parachute to a hard-surface landing. Is SpaceX planning to deploy Grasshopper-type technology to Mars landings? Send up some robots to build a landing pad first, if needed. Robots are happy to do a hard landing (or their replacements will be if that doesn't work out).

Re:What is SpaceX doing? (2)

mbone (558574) | about 4 months ago | (#47147333)

You basically cannot make a parachute big enough to land softly on Mars. The parachute is to slow you down (roughly) from Mach 2 or 1.5 to Mach 0.3 or so, and then you have to use rockets (or airbags, or both) to get down to the surface more or less softly. Viking, Phoenix and MSL used rockets, Mars Pathfinder and MER used rockets plus an airbag (and a willingness to tolerate 15 - 20 g impacts on the surface). In either case, the parachute is jettisoned while still a ways above the surface.

If you conclude from this that landing on Mars is tough, you are correct.

I just can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47150337)

for the reports of UFO's! "OMG! It's about to land!"... :-)

Hello (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47172563)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxI4GxamTqE

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