NASA shot down its meteorite shield to return samples from Mars (video)

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     NASA shoots its meteor shield to return samples from Mars (video)

    The space agency fires micro-bullets at the meteor shield of the orbiter that will send Martian samples to Earth.

    Related video

    Spacecraft are always in danger of being damaged by impacts from micrometeorites, which are fragments of larger space rocks. These micrometeorites can move in space at a speed of 80 km/s. At this speed, even tiny particles can damage a spacecraft. Therefore, NASA is now testing the strength of the material that will cover the surface of the future orbiter on Mars. With its help, within the framework of the MARS Sample Return program, samples of Martian rock collected by the Perseverance rover will be delivered to Earth, writes Space.

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    In order to test the strength of the material that will protect the orbiter from micrometeorites, NASA engineers fire microbullets at it.

    This test is carried out in a special NASA laboratory in New Mexico. Engineers say the protective coating must be able to withstand impacts from meteorites flying at such high speeds that if the plane were flying at the same speed, it could get from New York to San Francisco in less than 5 minutes. And this is almost 4,100 km. According to Bruno Sarli of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, even this speed is less than micrometeorites can fly in space. They can reach speeds of up to 80 km/s.

    “We need to achieve the maximum realistic flight speed of micrometeorites during tests, because even dust at such a speed can damage the orbiter,” says Sarli.

    To test the new protective material, engineers use a special gun to fire micro-bullets at it. This gun has two stages. The first stage uses regular gunpowder to propel the bullets. The second stage gives the bullets extra momentum by forcing highly compressed hydrogen gas into a smaller tube, similar to a car piston. The pressure in this cannon is so huge that during such a shot one could destroy an entire building.

    During preliminary tests, the engineers found that in order to provide the best protection against micrometeorites, the material should consist not of one thick layer, but of several thin layers.

    The orbiter, which will be coated with a new protective coating, will be created jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency. It will be sent into Mars orbit along with other vehicles that are participating in the program for the delivery of Martian rock samples to Earth. Already in 10 years, for the first time, scientists will be able to obtain samples that were extracted from the surface of another planet.

    Although meteorites from Mars fall to Earth, they still spent millions or even billions of years in space and their properties and composition have changed. And when they fall on our planet, they are influenced by the environment. Therefore, scientists are waiting for “pure” Martian samples.

    As Focus already wrote, the Perseverance rover has already collected 14 rock samples on Mars, but it has problems again.

    We remind you that scientists will send a new space shield to the ISS, which will be useful for a colony on the moon.