NASA Tests Crucial Heat Shield Technology for Future Mars Mission
The future Mars exploration has now received a date finally. The NASA’s latest Insight mission which is set to study the deep interior of the red planet is targeting a new launch window which begins on the May 5, 2018 with a Mars landing that is scheduled for the November 26 during the same year.
The interior exploration by using the seismic investigations, Geodesy & the heat transport would help the scientists to understand how the rocky planets including the Earth were formed & evolved. The spacecraft was on track to be launch in this month but a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument has prompted the NASA to suspend the preparations for the launch.
The NASA’s solution to help a manned mission to Mars return safely to the Earth seems like a giant inflatable donut & it would serve as a crucial piece of technology to help to slow down the spacecraft as it comes to the Martian atmosphere.
The capability to speed down the spacecraft after it has been traveling at a greater velocity which is needed for a long haul mission would help to protect it from the heat of atmospheric entry & will provide a softer landing according to the NASA. While the mission to Mars isn’t targeted till the 2030s, NASA has said that with today’s technology it can take about eight months to travel to the Red Planet.
The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator which is abbreviated as HIAD is being tested by the engineers at the NASA’s Langley research center in Virginia. The inflatable orange ring functions like a parachute by using the drag of the planet’s atmosphere to speed down the spacecraft thus securing it from the highly intense atmospheric heat & thus permitting it to have a softer landing.
A nine foot diameter HIAD model created of Zylon & Teflon materials were tested by using the vacuum pump with the engineers checking it for some potential damage according to a NASA blog post.
With this test successful, the engineers will now plan to produce a larger HIAD which can be packed in a rocket & withstand the very high temperatures like those it might encounter when a spacecraft descends onto the Mars.
All such tests build on each other will help to illustrate the performance of the system & in the end, we would have a full system which can be tested to show that it can meet the requirements for a space flight mission.