SPACEPORT AMERICA, New Mexico (Reuters) – The United States National Air and Space Administration (NASA) launched and tested a new umbrella-like heat shield Wednesday and opened the door to land people on Mars.
PHOTO PHOTOS: Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 1
The new technology – called Adaptable Deployable Entry Placement Technology ADEPT) – stored as a collapsed umbrella in smaller rockets, opening handles in space to protect greater payloads as they enter a planet's atmosphere, "said Brandon Smith, NASA's main researcher on the project. The shape makes it possible to protect larger areas than current heat shields.
"On larger waves, it can be used for something as great as human Mars discoveries, or potentially human landslags on Mars," Smith told Reuters at the Spaceport America launch site, about 50 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
NASA is preparing to send a new Rover Robot Lander to March 2020 and plans to send human astronauts in 2033. Rover will search for earlier signs of life on Mars and show technologies that can help astronauts to survive there.
The goal of sending people to Mars was established in 2010 under the administration of President Barack Obama and confirmed by President Donald Trump in December.
Before NASA can send people to Mars, it will have to land a lot of load there and the new heat shield can help if it works, Smith said. The system can also be used with crew caps, protecting astronauts.
ADEPT, launched with a Spaceloft suborbital rocket made by UP Aerospace, was tested at Space New South Mexico. It was used between 100 and 120 kilometers before it was opened and the road back to earth landed at the White Sands Missile Range.
Data collected from the test will not be available until the shield is recycled, officials said. The system, once implemented, will allow NASA to send more complex missions to other planets.
"Heat shields are typically rigid structures, but this can actually be exploited in space," Smith said. "What you can do is remove the volume of a typical launch vehicle that is long and narrow."
The new heat shield can also be used to drive recyclable experiments in the Earth's upper atmosphere and send probes to Venus, Sade Smith.
Reporting Julio-Cesar Chavez in Spaceport America, New Mexico, Editing Ben Klayman and Marguerita Choy