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NASA Tests Heat Shield to Help Land on Mars

NASA Tests Heat Shield to Help Land on Mars

Saturday, 15 September, 2018 - 05:30
Astronaut Mike Hopkins is pictured while carrying out the second of his two spacewalks – with photographer and fellow Rick Mastracchio pictured in his visor. (Reuters/Nasa)
New Mexico (United States) - Asharq Al-Awsat
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tested a new umbrella-like heat shield this week, opening the door to landing humans on Mars.

According to said Brandon Smith, NASA’s principal investigator on the project, the new technology is designed to be stored like a folded umbrella inside smaller rockets, opening in space to protect larger payloads as they enter a planet’s atmosphere.

The shape allows it to protect larger areas than current heat shield.

“At the larger scales, it could be used for something as grand as human Mars explorations, or potentially human cargo landings on Mars,” Smith told Reuters at the Spaceport America launch site, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

NASA is preparing to send a new rover robotic lander to Mars in 2020 and plans to send human astronauts in 2033.

The rover will search for previous signs on life on Mars and demonstrate technology that could help astronauts survive there.

The goal of sending humans to Mars was set in 2010 during the administration of President Barack Obama and was affirmed by President Donald Trump last December.

Before NASA can send humans to Mars, it will need to land a lot of cargo there and the new heat shield could help if it works, Smith said.

The system could also be used with crew capsules, protecting astronauts, he added.

The shield, launched with a Spaceloft suborbital rocket made by UP Aerospace, was tested at the spaceport in southern New Mexico.

It deployed between 100 and 120 kilometers before opening and making its way back to Earth, landing at White Sands Missile Range.

Data gathered from the test will not be available until the shield is recovered, officials said.

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