It is no secret that NASA is looking to the past to help us go back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars. Today NASA revealed that scientists working on the Orion crew module visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum Garber Facility in Suitland, Md. over the summer to unpack Apollo heat shields for the first time in 35 years.
"We started working together at the end of June to track down any Apollo-era heat shields that they had in storage," said Elizabeth (Betsy) Pugel of the Detector Systems Branch at NASA Goddard. "We located one and opened it. It was like a nerd Christmas for us!"Specifically, the team is hoping to gather information on how to build next gen shields by examining the design of the carrier structure that connected the shield to an Apollo capsule that flew in Low Earth Orbit. They are also interested in the shields thermal response. Honestly, every time I watch a documentary, read an article or visit a museum dealing with early spaceflight I am reminded of how brilliant the engineers behind these accomplishments really were. This is yet another example. [NASA and Science Daily]