The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) may look like a flying saucer, but it’s actually an important step in building the Earth-to-Mars ride that NASA needs. In order to deliver the next generation of science equipment that is being planned for Mars, they will have to deliver much heavier payloads than they have before.
Delivering larger rovers, much less people, safely to the surface of the red plant will require whole new technologies. For example, engineers must create the strongest parachutes ever devised, and ‘soft landing’ systems that can slow a spacecraft down in the thin Martian atmosphere. Above is video footage from the most recent test of the LDSD, which uses an inflated ring to brake the spacecraft.