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How to Land a House on Mars

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How to Land a House on Mars

Chris Klimek

Divers recover the test vehicle for the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator following its first atmospheric test flight in June 2014 (NASA/JPL).

Divers recover the test vehicle for the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator following its first atmospheric test flight in June 2014 (NASA/JPL).

I've got a big feature in the March 2016 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, where I work, about the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, which is the two-stage technology NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is working on that will one day allow NASA to deposit heavier objects on the surface of Mars intact. Sounds pretty dry and technical, maybe, but why not show a little confidence in my ability to tell a story? My pal and editor Heather Goss already made me take all the acronyms out, upping the likelihood you'll read this, we both hope.

There is a real story here: Basically, NASA is having a moment of constructive reflection about why a couple of different designs for the 100-foot parachutes they need to slow a spacecraft traveling at Mach 2 in the thin Martian atmosphere before it crashes into the surface haven't worked. Read on, if you dare. If you really want to butter me up, hoof it on down to your local Barnes & Noble, or to the gift shop of the National Air and Space Museum, and buy a copy of the issue for $6.99. You'll have dinner-party anecodoes for weeks. That is my pledge to you.