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NASA successfully launched a balloon carrying its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a system resembling a flying saucer, from the US Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai on Monday. The launch and test run of the LDSD could one day hold the key to a manned mission to Mars, enabling a spacecraft to land safely on the Red Planet. If all goes to plan the balloon will ascend to an altitude of an altitude of about 120,000 feet (37,000 meters), where a series of experiments will be carried out. The LDSD will be dropped and stabilised through a control spin, so the main test can begin. A giant supersonic ringsail parachute, measuring 100 feet (30 meters) across, will be deployed, which is expected to slow down the LDSD so it can land safely on water. In the previous year's test run, the parachute was torn apart by supersonic winds. NASA has since nearly doubled the size of the parachute and made numerous other changes to make it more durable in adverse conditions. Video courtesy of NASA, aspect ratios mixed at source


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