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originally posted by: Arbitrageur
a reply to: anzha
It's nice to see some posters like you still post a lot more than just a link with a snippet from the source. That's a very nice opening post with your thoughts and a description of the problem.
It's good the ESA can admit that NASA knows more about parachutes and that they aren't too proud to seek NASA's help solving the problem. I have watched some videos of NASA doing some of their Mars parachute testing, and they had some problems too at one point which they managed to solve, it seemed a bit tricky.
Mars missions are tough even without known problems, only roughly half the missions succeed and that's the success rate of the first two parts of ExoMars with the orbiter succeeding and the lander failing.
Fortunately, the heat shield -- through friction with the atmosphere -- absorbs 98% of all that energy.
So we start off at 17,000 miles per hour, and we can slow down to about 1,000 miles per hour.
That's the point when we have to open up the parachute.
But the problem is, on Mars the atmosphere is so thin that even at a thousand miles per hour, we're not generating that much force.
So we need a really, really, really big parachute.
One of the most difficult things to do is to test the strength of the parachute.
The only way to do that is to actually inflate it. Either you drop it from a helicopter, or you put it in a wind tunnel.
We tried dropping it from a helicopter, but we were so big, and it was just not a very elegant test.
So we abandoned that, and we decided to go into the wind tunnel.
Well, we had to go to the world's largest wind tunnel in order to accommodate this big of a parachute.
The test section in this wind tunnel is 120 feet wide and 80 feet high -- it's
So it sounds pretty straightforward, it sounds pretty easy, but parachute testing is never without its surprises.