Despite the treacherous journey up, one of the greatest dangers of space travel involves re-entry, as Columbia unfortunately demonstrated. Now it seems as if NASA is selecting several companies to develop “alternative heat shields” as insurance, just in case the primary ones fail.
(United Press International) NASA has selected The Boeing Co. and the Textron Systems Corp. to develop alternate heat shield materials for the Orion crew exploration spacecraft.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the contracts will support development and testing of three alternative heat shield materials that would be used if there are difficulties with the primary material.
This is probably a wise thing for NASA, as it can ill-afford another space tragedy on its books. Although these alternative heat shields are intended for “general Earth use,” this technology could be easily adapted for future Martian missions in the distant future, not to mention Titan as well.