Space mission considered successful even though key piece of equipment failed

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – NASA engineers are analyzing data they retrieved after an experiment launched and splash-landed over the weeekend.

Even though a key piece of equipment in the mission failed, managers at Marshall Space Flight Center consider the mission to be a big success.

Scientists call it the LDSD, which stands for Low Density Supersonic Decelerator.

“This initial flight was to be a shake-out test of the test vehicle,” said John McDougal, one of a team of NASA engineers managing the mission from MSFC.

The LDSD is several technologies working together to help get equipment — and eventually humans — safely into deep space.

Simply put, the LDSD slows things down from four times the speed of sound to a speed to allow equipment to land in tact and operable on the surface of Mars or beyond.

“The purpose of this program is to test these technologies prior to being used on the expensive mission,” said McDougal.

After a series of weather-related delays, the mission launched Saturday morning, June 28th, off the coast of Hawaii and concluded in about three hours.

The first piece to activate worked.  The next piece — a 100-foot-wide parachute — didn’t.

“This is the purpose of this demonstration is to test and look for problems and we found a problem,” said McDougal.

The designers of the parachute will have to figure out how to improve it so it will sustain 180,000 pounds of force deployed at about two and a half times the speed of sound.

“So we’ll study the test data, we’ll determine what the malfunctions were and repair it,” said McDougal.

Then, scientists will fly it again next summer.

After the vehicle splash-landed, scientists were able to retrieve data recorders and cameras to give them important information they’ll use in building the equipment for the next test.

Workers in California built the parachute.