NASA explores use of inflatable spacecraft technology to get humans to Mars | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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NASA explores use of inflatable spacecraft technology to get humans to Mars

This May 14, 2012 photo provided by NASA Langley shows the inflatable structure of a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, background, made up of high-tech fabric rings, similar to those seen in the foreground, at NASA Langley research center in Hampton, Va. When Orbital Sciences resumes sending supplies to the International Space Station, its Antares rocket will carry an experimental inflatable spacecraft technology that engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center have been working on for more than a decade. (AP Photo/ NASA Langley, Kathy Barnstorff)
January 03, 2015 - 9:26 AM

NORFOLK, Va. - Devising a way to one day land astronauts on Mars is a complex problem and NASA scientists think it may be solved with something as simple as a child's toy design. That's just one of the many engineering challenges the space agency faces as it ambitiously eyes a goal of sending humans into deep space in coming decades.

At NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, engineers have been working on developing an inflatable heat shield. It looks a lot like a super-sized version of a stacking ring of doughnuts infants play with. Deploying a lightweight, inflatable heat shield would allow for a large spacecraft carrying humans to enter Mars' very thin atmosphere, helping the craft to slow for landing.

The inflatable rings are filled with nitrogen and covered with a thermal blanket.

NASA plans to put a large-scale experiment into orbit on an Antares rocket launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, in 2016.

News from © The Associated Press, 2015
The Associated Press

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