NASA's 'Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator' Inflates Like a Puffer Fish

 - May 14, 2014
References: & gizmag
NASA is developing lightweight inflatable flying saucers -- called low-density supersonic decelerators -- that will help slow down spacecraft descending through the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speeds so that they can land in one piece.

These inflatable flying saucers will fit around the outer rims of spacecraft, inflating as the spacecraft descends to permit a soft and safe landing. This technology will allow astronauts to land bigger and heavier spacecraft without needing to carry massive atmospheric shields or huge amounts of extra fuel.

Not only will the low-density supersonic decelerators enable astronauts to land larger and heavier spacecraft, it will also enable landings at higher altitudes. They could even be adapted to land payloads on other planets.