NASA looks to SpaceX for Mars landing tips
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has made it no secret that he plans to go to Mars, and it looks like he’s giving NASA’s ambitions a bit of a boost along the way. During a Falcon 9 launch, NASA sent a pair of chase planes up to take high-resolution images of the booster as it made a powered test landing on the surface of the Ocean.
The Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s attempt at a paradigm shift in spaceflight as the company works on a space launch system where all the major components from booster stages to spacecraft are able to return to Earth for a quick refueling and relaunching at a fraction of what current systems cost. Though still in its early stages, the powered landing system is already paying dividends to NASA, who sees the Falcon 9 as a source of data for future Mars missions.
In September, NASA sent up a pair of chase planes; one from NASA's Scientifically Calibrated In-Flight Imagery (SCIFLI) project team, and one from the US Naval Air Systems Command Weapons Division's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron-30 at Point Mugu, California. The idea was that by studying the Falcon 9 as it re-fired its engines at supersonic velocities, it would be a low cost way for both NASA and SpaceX to gather the needed data for building future spacecraft for making powered landings on Mars.