NASA studying manufacture shields for spacecraft with alien soil

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NASA is studying the possibility of extraterrestrial soils use to build shells reentry so that astronauts can return home.When entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the ships are subjected to extremely high temperatures, due to friction with the air. So they are not destroyed like meteors, these ships need shields to protect them from the heat.

The problem is that these shields are heavy, and are expected to rise along with the ship, making the entire journey out and back, which means a great fuel consumption.For Michael Hogue, Kennedy Space Center, an output is much better to go into space without a reentry shield, allowing rockets to use smaller and consume less fuel, or use the same rocket and carry more payload.

Arriving at the destination, the astronauts acionariam an automated factory that would take the regolith – soil extraterrestrial – and fabricate a heat shield for the return trip.Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous material covering the rocky part of a celestial body, which includes soil, dust, broken stones and other related materials. Although the term is commonly used in reference to the lunar surface, the regolith is also present on Earth in asteroids and rocky planets and moons.

Scale technological availability

The idea is far from becoming reality: NASA put it on level 1 of their “level of technological readiness,” which runs until 9.

But the first experiments were promising: the prototypes, when subjected to a temperature of 2,200 º C, kept the protected side at 93 º C.

Now researchers are preparing to submit them to a plasma arc which simulates the actual conditions of reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA studying manufacture shields for spacecraft with alien soil

The first prototypes, when subjected to a temperature of 2,200 º C, kept the protected side at 93 º C[Image: NASA]


Of course, the prototype measuring 5 cm thick and 10 cm in diameter, were not made of regolith ET, but land of mixtures that mimic the composition and texture of fine moondust.

For the idea gets to level 9, which indicates a technology ready for use, you must expect a mission to go into space to collect regolith enough to manufacture a prototype under realistic conditions.

Moreover, as transportation will require a factory to the moon or other celestial body where the shells will be manufactured, the proposal would only make sense in a scenario of continuous and periodic trips since the factory certainly weigh more than a few shells could be used in missions sporadic.

Utilization of extraterrestrial soils

Although seize land for extraterrestrial manufacture reentry shields on Earth is nothing new, the use of such land for other purposes is an old idea – for example, for the construction of housing or as a protective shield against cosmic radiation.

In 2005, researchers demonstrated that the concrete will be manufactured on the moon 45% stronger than the concrete ground , and its manufacturing process does not use water.

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