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July 25, 2014

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Winds foil NASA’s plan to launch ‘flying saucer’

Image

NASA / AP

In this undated image provided by NASA a saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

LOS ANGELES — NASA is regrouping after it lost the chance to launch a "flying saucer" into Earth's atmosphere to test Mars technology.

Winds at a military range on the Hawaiian island of Kauai have not cooperated during the two-week launch window that ends on Saturday.

NASA says winds need to be calm for a helium balloon to carry the disc-shaped vehicle over the Pacific so that it doesn't stray into no-fly zones.

The mission tests a novel vehicle and giant parachute designed to land heavy payloads on Mars, where the thin atmosphere presents challenges in slowing a spacecraft to a safe touchdown speed.

NASA has invested $150 million in the project. It will study its options including extending the launch window, which would be an added cost.

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