Saturday, June 20, 2009

Curiosity Heat Shield: NASA's Biggest to Date

"Next Mars Rover Gets Huge Heat Shield" (June 19, 2009)

"The largest heat shield ever built for a probe bound for Mars is ready for the new rover Curiosity, a massive Martian robot the size of a car.

"The immense heat shield will shroud the Mars Science Laboratory rover, now named Curiosity, to protect it during its deep space cruise to Mars and the searing heat of entry into the Martian atmosphere. Lockheed Martin unveiled the heat shield this week and delivered its conical backshell to NASA last year...."

The heat shield is larger than the one used in the Apollo command modules.

More to the point, if all goes well - hardly a sure thing for Mars missions - the Curiosity rover will collect information on Mars' climate and geology. This should help us understand more about what's been going on there for the last few billion years: and help prepare for people landing there.

The article also gives a brief overview of conditions the heat shield is designed to handle. It's made of Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator: the same substance used on the Stardust probe that brought back material from a comet.

Other posts, about "Mars, Mostly."

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