After scrapping six possible launches this month, NASA scientists have to explore whether they can get an extension—of time, and of funding—to send a supersonic parachute to the edge of space. The goal is to test flying-saucer-shaped decelerator technology that could eventually be used to help humans land on Mars. For now, though, the equipment hasn't even left Earth.
NASA ruled out possible launches for the test vehicle, named Keiki o ka honua, on June 3, June 5, June 7, June 9, June 11, and June 14 due to weather issues—mostly wind—at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
"NASA will investigate options after looking at factors such as future PMRF range availability and availability of funds to extend the test timeline," NASA spokesman David Steitz told me in an email.
And though NASA scientists must be frustrated with the delay, there's something almost pleasantly humbling about our little planet's atmospheric conditions interfering with scientific ambition of this scope. Of all the barriers to get in the way of a mission that entails a stadium-sized balloon that deploys a rocket carrying a parachute designed to travel at four times the speed of sound ... regular old wind is getting in the way.