back to article FLYING SAUCER crashes into Pacific off Hawaii - NASA

Sailors in waters to the west of the Hawaiian island of Kauai will have just seen a curious sight indeed: a flying saucer screaming out of the sky and smashing into the Pacific. The craft was NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a 15-foot-wide saucer-shaped machine hooked up to a huge parachute to test methods for …

  1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

    Burst/ripped parachute?

    It looked like the parachute opened fully and held for about one second before suddenly bursting/ripping. Maybe either a seam or the material itself couldn't cope with the Mach 2.5 wind. It's at about 5:40 on the video.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Burst/ripped parachute?

      You can clearly see what happened in the second image in the article. The parachute got snagged on the tail of that Boeing 747.

  2. raving angry loony


    The test was only a failure if they didn't manage to gather enough data to determine what went wrong. Otherwise, the test was a success. The patient might have died, but it was successful.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Failed?

      True, progress is often made by eliminating most of the ways of getting it wrong. I tend to get an uneasy feeling when something I have built (or programmed for that matter) works perfectly at the first test. You are left with the awkward feeling that things might blow up in your face later.

      Hence the icon

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Failed?

        Unit testing in a nutshell - destroy everything and then run away.

  3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    Kerbal missions often look like that

    A wibbley wobbley powered flight followed by something else going wrong, and a dose of lithobraking, although in this case, it look like hydrobraking

  4. Turtle

    Seven Is A Lucky Number - And Thus A Key To Success!

    "But the seventh mission succeeded and it just so happened that one of the mission's controllers was munching a handful of peanuts at the time. Since then good luck peanuts are eaten as a superstitious tradition in this most scientific of organizations."

    For some reason, I find that reassuring.

    Still, it is interesting to note that the Nasaeans, very capable sciencemologists, apparently overlooked the significance of the mission being the seventh. The number seven has many mystic properties which could well have influenced the success of the mission. For example, as the Pythagoreans taught: "The Hebdomad [i.e., the number seven]—as being motherless, and a virgin—possesses the second place in dignity." See

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Seven Is A Lucky Number - And Thus A Key To Success!

      "The number seven has many mystic properties" Why?

      1. Turtle

        @Elmer Phud

        "'The number seven has many mystic properties' Why?"

        You're going to have to ask Pythagoras, sorry.

  5. Blofeld's Cat


    "Chute burst, ask questions later"

    Another classic Reg sub-head - see icon

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Er...

      That sub-head is very good indeed, perfect in every way. Well done.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Er...

      I took the rest of the day off after that.

      (So blame all further typos on me.)


      1. choleric

        Re: Er...

        It epitomizes the El Reg "take no prisoners" style.

        @diodesign A well earned rest-of-the-day-off it was too. It was an especially nicely timed story then at 0040 hours.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > the then world's biggest parachute

    > the then world's biggest parachute

    Which world would that be then? (Unless the article is written by AManFromMars, in which case, ah, say no more)

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: > the then world's biggest parachute

      Both. It was a typo after the well-deserved knocking-off after that glorious sub-head.

      It should have been written ...the then worlds' biggest parachute...

  7. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    The LDSD detached from the balloon ... the Star 48 solid-fuel rocket in the center of the saucer punched it 60,000ft upwards

    Clearly the LOHAN special projects team need to find out who NASA knows at the FAA, and get him/her to put in a word. If NASA can do it, so can El Reg.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Guess the "N" in NASA helps them a little...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Exactly. From the FAAs point of view the El Reg SPB is FASA. F for foreign of course and that second A might be superfluous since garden shed boffins are notorious for their lack of administration.

  8. cray74

    Not the second failure?

    The Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity Rover had trouble with bursting test parachutes, too. They were never fully resolved but NASA went ahead with the Curiosity mission on the theory that the MSL's supersonic Martian parachutes were bursting in terrestrial wind tunnels because the aerodynamic regime was so different than Mars, despite similar Reynolds numbers. I could be mangling the story, it's been a while since I saw the documentary.

    "It is because of this lethargic opening behavior that the parachute inflation is reasoned as qualified exclusively based on the available test and flight experience base and not the subsonic wind tunnel tests." --Our testing didn't work, but older parachutes worked on Mars missions so we went with it anyway.

    Apparently, supersonic Martian parachutes are tough to design, more than these two LSDS tests suggest. Kudos to NASA for sticking with it. Sometimes success in engineering is achieved by banging your head against a brick wall and hoping the wall crumbles before you hear a squishy sound.

    1. Annie N.

      Re: Not the second failure?

      "Sometimes success in engineering is afhieved by banging your head against a brick wall and hoping the wall crumbles before you hear a squishing sound."

      Or sharpening your beak on the diamond mountain until it's worn away.

      ("You may think that's a hell of a long time, Personally, I think that's a hell of a bird!")

  9. x 7

    I feel sorry for the whales. Must give them a heck of a headache

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      The bowls of petunias also.

  10. Richard Altmann


    One grows with the challenge. Maybe they should advance to cracking coconuts on their foreheads.

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