It might look like a giant loudspeaker, but this inflatable NASA device wasn’t designed to blast sounds into space.
It’s an inflatable heat shield designed to create drag in the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere and soften the landing for heavy missions.
But before attaching it to any Mars-bound spacecraft, the novel heat shield had to be tested in Earth’s atmosphere.
Last week, NASA successfully inflated and landed the device in a demonstration called the Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator — LOFTID for short.
Here are 9 memorable moments from the LOFTID demonstration:
9. Before departing for space, the heat shield had to undergo several lab tests. Here it is during an inflation test earlier this year.
8. The JPSS-2 satellite is carefully stacked atop the LOFTID payload in preparation for launch.
6. Once in low-Earth orbit, JPSS-2 detached from the rocket, giving LOFTID space to inflate.
5. Poof! The heat shield expands to full size.
3. LOFTID’s heat shield glows bright white as it sails down into the ocean, due to extreme heat generated during atmospheric re-entry.
1. Crews prepare to reel LOFTID (top right) back to safety.
NASA reported that the rescue mission was a success.