Testing for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover landing parachute was also conducted at the NASA Ames 80-foot-by-120-foot test section. The parachute was the largest ever built to fly on an extraterrestrial mission. This image shows a duplicate qualification-test parachute inflated in 80-mile-per-hour wind inside the test facility. It has 80 suspension lines, is more that 165 feet long, and opens to a diameter of nearly 51 feet.
Scale model studies of some aspects of flight, including parachutes and rotorcraft, are limited because the way they interact with the air is far more complicated than fixed wing aircraft. Despite better computer simulations, there has been limited success in gathering accurate data between air and rotors and parachutes, NASA says, making full-scale testing in this wind tunnel invaluable.