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Inflatable Heat Shields Could One Day Land Astronauts on Mars

NASA successfully tested an inflatable heat shield prototype Monday (July 23), a technology that could one day be used for future space exploration missions, including landing humans on Mars, its builders say.

The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3, or IRVE-3, was conducted at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. During the test flight, a small capsule was launched atop a suborbital rocket, and an inflatable heat shield was deployed in space before it plummeted back through Earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speeds to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.

The demonstration flight helps pave the way for new re-entry systems on future spacecraft, said Neil Cheatwood, IRVE-3 principal investigator at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

(via starstuffblog)

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