June 11, 2015 11:09 AM EDT

1 After the craft was lofted by balloon and dropped at an altitude of 22.7 miles (36.5 km), its engine fired for 66 sec., during which it climbed to 34 miles (55 km).

2 Once the engine shut off–prompting the craft to flip over, as planned–the balloon-like top inflated to increase drag and slow its plunge.

3 A parachute deployed to carry the craft to Earth (as it would on Mars), but it tore away during descent; NASA said it would refine the tech.

4 A third test is scheduled for mid-2016. The goal: to make manned visits to Mars easier by doubling the weight that can be placed on the Martian surface.

For more on these ideas, visit time.com/theview

This appears in the June 22, 2015 issue of TIME.

Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.

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