"The future comes slowly." -- Johann Friedrich von Schiller, 18th century German historian and poet
As NASA plans ambitious new robotic missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human science expeditions to come, the spacecraft needed to land safely on the red planet's surface necessarily becomes increasingly massive, hauling larger payloads to accommodate extended stays on the Martian surface. NASA has used its current, parachute-based deceleration system since the Viking Program, which put two landers on Mars in 1977. New technology is needed to slow larger, heavier landers from the supersonic speeds of atmospheric entry to subsonic ground-approach speeds.