Sending man to the Mars is the dream which NASA nurtures for the later part of the century. However it is not going to be an easy task though NASA is thinking as creatively as making a toy for a child. One of the biggest challenges will be to try to safely land a huge spaceship on the Red Planet and NASA has a number of tricks up its sleeves to accomplish this.
NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton is a very hectic place where top notch and some of the finest brains are working in unison to create an inflatable heat shield that looks more akin to a jumbo-sized version of a stacking ring of doughnuts that infants play with. It will be the light weight, inflatable heat shield which will be used to decelerate the craft to enter a Martian atmosphere much thinner than Earth’s.
An inflatable heat shield of this size will help the craft reach the high-altitude southern plains of Mars as well as places which are not accessible today due to technological limitations. Rockets alone will be useless for a large sized spacecraft which will be sent to Mars. It could work in an atmosphere less moon but not on Mars. Neither will parachutes work for a large spaceship which is likely to send humans to space.
So instead of these NASA will use inflatable rings which would be filled with nitrogen and covered with a thermal blanket. On being deployed for landing the rings would sit atop the spacecraft much akin to a giant mushroom.
Neil Cheatwood, the senior engineer at Langley for advanced entry, descent and landing systems said, “We try to not use propulsion if we don’t have to. We make use of that atmosphere as much as we can, because it means we don’t have to carry all that fuel with us.”