The same design of parachute, dating from 1976, has been used for all rovers and landers sent to the red planet so far, but
The new flying saucer-style design has a supersonic parachute that is 33.5 metres in diameter - twice as large as the one that carried Curiosity.
Because it is so big, it cannot fit into the wind tunnels that
Weather permitting, a test flight will take place high above the Hawaiian island of
During the flight, a balloon will lift the vehicle from the
It will then fire its rocket motor to climb to 34 miles, accelerating to Mach 4.
The environment at this altitude is similar to Mars' thin atmosphere.
As it descends to Earth, a tube around the vehicle will inflate, slowing it down.
A parachute should then pop out, guiding the vehicle to a splashdown in the Pacific.
"This is the first step towards landing humans there."
Cameras fitted on board the vehicle will capture the moments it accelerates to four times the speed of sound before falling back to Earth.
The footage will be streamed live online.
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