After repeated weather delays, NASA ran out of time to test its new flying saucer. All six planned launch windows in the past two weeks were cancelled due to unfavourable wind conditions. The saucer is grounded while scientists try to schedule a new testing window.
Artist's concept of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator firing its rockets to gain altitude prior to testing. Image credit: NASA
The plan was for a balloon to lift the saucer to a certain altitude, then for rockets within the saucer to boost it even higher. Once peak altitude was obtained, the real test would begin as the saucer plummeted back to Earth. Both the broad saucer dish and a fancy new parachute were to slow the craft down before it impacted the ocean. But for any of this to work, the test required mid-level winds at altitudes of 15,000 to 60,000 feet to carry the saucer away from civilization. If the winds were too strong, it'd interfere with the test vehicle; if the winds were too weak, the balloon would fail to carry the prototype over open ocean.
Despite regularly having the ideal wind conditions, Hawaii failed to deliver during the entire launch test period. Six separate testing windows getting cancelled due to unfavourable wind conditions. For now, the saucer remains earthbound, and its scientists are trying to come up with a new plan. Principle investigator Ian Clark sounds very chin-up optimistic about the frustrating conditions in the NASA press release:
"Our team has been working on this project for several years, and we have been so focused. We came here to do our job and get this vehicle off the ground, but unfortunately weather didn't allow us to do this. We are very optimistic and are hoping to test the vehicle at the end of the month."
Until then, any reports of flying saucers over Hawaii can not be attributed to test flights for prototype Mars landing vehicles.