Parachutes are primarily used in two ways: as a safety precaution in fighter planes and in skydiving and other similar sports. Parachutes slow down the descent of a person or object.
Parachutes come in two basic varieties. The first is made of material that creates a dome shape; it captures the air in the material, slowing descent. The other has a longer shape, almost like airplane wings, and jumpers can use it to glide in a particular direction. Parachutes were around as early as the 12th century in China, though it was not until the 17th century that parachutes began to be tested more rigorously.