NASA has launched a sounding rocket on Friday carried the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
“This is really a strength test of that Mars 2020 (rover) design,” Jeremy Hill, a mechanical engineer at JPL, was quoted as saying during a webcast of the launch.
The payload is a bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure holding a supersonic parachute, the parachute’s deployment mechanism, and the test’s high-definition instrumentation — including cameras — to record data.
The Mars 2020 rover mission is scheduled to launch in July/ August 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars.
The mission takes the next step in addressing questions about potential for life on Mars by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself.