NASA has tested lofted technology that it hopes will help land humans on Mars. The full name of the mission is Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID). The system consists of a heat shield, a probe, a propulsion system and a parachute, all of which are connected by circular tubes of air connected together like an umbrella.
It uses a technology called Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD). Two sub-orbital experiments have already been conducted. Today’s lofted orbital flight test is the third. This is a technology that could be used for future missions, including to Mars. This technology makes it possible to lower the friction of a probe or other object when it enters a planet’s atmosphere, control the extreme temperatures caused by it, and bring the probe down more safely.
NASA says that apart from being able to land heavy loads, it will also be able to land the spacecraft in high altitudes.
In addition to manned spacecraft, this system will also provide an opportunity to return and reuse rocket parts launched into space.
NASA has been working on this technology for over a decade. Loftid has a diameter of six meters with an inflated aeroshell system. This size reduces the speed of the jump through the atmosphere and enables a safer landing than the normally used inflated aeroshells. This system is also capable of withstanding extreme heat.