What does Heat Shield Cracking under Pressure mean for NASA Mars Mission?


All doesn’t seem to be going well in NASA. They recently had a blow when a heat shield cracked during testing. There are reasons to worry. The reason is that it has a big role to play during the proposed Mars’ rover mission by NASA. Its design is in such a way that it will be in a position to protect the rover during its entrance to the atmosphere of Mars. The worst part is that the mission that would be adversely affected cost the agency $2 billion. There is a lot at stake if nothing happens beyond any reasonable doubt. What did NASA have to say? How about the event and details of what is the topic of our discussion? Read on!

Before even proceeding further, here are basics. This heat shield as the name suggests protects the spacecraft. Its material is in many cases the phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA). It’s a major preference because of its lightweight nature. It is similar to balsa wood. Equally important, it can stand firm against a temperature of almost 4,000 degrees F. It comes in action as the spacecraft enters into the Mars’ atmosphere. The material too good to the extent that it is the same one for Dragon Capsule of SpaceX. The spacecraft supplies the ISS.

There was a crack in the shield that cut across the whole circumference. It happened while it was undergoing testing to see whether it would live up to its task. According to NASA, it was subjected to forces greater than those expected during the Mars’ atmosphere by 20%. There are high chances that they expected it to be a success. However, they were in for a rude shock.

The next move is for the engineers to construct a new one. The contractor, Lockheed Martin is working closely with the engineers of Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA for that. A change in its design may be inevitable. The cost estimate is also a matter that remains a mystery.

The Mars 2020 mission has its purpose laid out. NASA will send a rover. It will be in search of evidence of potential life support. The incident marks the second setback for the mission after the James Webb Space Telescope. Nevertheless, NASA is still hopeful that it will be a success. The launch date will be in July 2020. As much as they are confident all we can do is wait and see.