That’s according to numbers from NASA provided to Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project's saucer essentially crash-landed in the Pacific Ocean during a June 2015 test when the canopy of its 100-foot parachute tore after being deployed.
Parts of the saucer were fractured during the hard landing, according to NASA, which Ernst said shelved the saucer project after spending millions on it.
“Forget Area 51,” Ernst joked in a September statement. “The real UFOs — unexplainable federally-funded objects — the government is hiding can be found by raiding the budget.”
The test in June 2015 was the second for the spacecraft, which was managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
It started with a high-altitude balloon carrying the saucer up to an elevation of 120,000 feet, and a rocket motor propelled it another 60,000 feet. When the supersonic parachute deployed at around Mach 2.4, the drag produced a tear in the material, NASA said at the time, and the saucer made a hard landing in the Pacific just 12 minutes later.
Government researchers sounded upbeat about what the project taught them, nonetheless.
The physics involved "is so cutting-edge we learn something profound every time we test," said Ian Clark, principal investigator for the saucer project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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