NASA explores inflatable spacecraft technology - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

NASA explores inflatable spacecraft technology

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Scientists may have devised a way to land astronauts on Mars. Scientists may have devised a way to land astronauts on Mars.
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.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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