Hey Mars, here we come

When NASA launched the Curiosity rover in 2011, it was the heaviest thing they could possibly land on Mars. Engineers knew they needed something bigger and better to ferry even larger loads — and someday, people — to the Red Planet. Thus was born the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, which NASA successfully tested in the stratosphere over Hawaii in late June. Read my 4-part series on the rich backstory, the night-before preparations, the results, and the post-script of the historic test in the LA Times.

An artist's depiction of the vehicle blazing through the stratosphere. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech / AFP/Getty Images)
An artist’s depiction of the vehicle blazing through the stratosphere. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech / AFP/Getty Images)
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