Genius NASA gun to protect Mars Sample Return spacecraft by shooting down meteorites
NASA is preparing a meteorite protective measure for its Mars Sample Return spacecraft with the help of this gun.
Spacecrafts are very advanced but highly sensitive vehicles which have to withstand the tremendous pressure of the vacuum in space. Although they are built to withstand the harsh conditions of outer space, they are still at a risk of being damaged by asteroids and meteorites. Even the smallest meteorite could damage the spacecraft enough to jeopardize the mission. NASA recently concluded its first planetary defense test to protect Earth against potential asteroid impacts. It seems like the space agency is planning the same strategy for its other spacecraft.
NASA is currently testing a light-gas gun which hatter micrometeorite fragments and other space debris to protect its upcoming Mars Sample Return mission. The journey from Mars to Earth is long enough as it is and the space agency is doing everything possible to make sure that the scientific samples from Mars reach Earth safely.
Bruno Sarli, NASA engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said in a NASA blog, “Micrometeorites are a potential hazard for any space mission, including NASA's Mars Sample Return. The tiny rocks can travel up to 50 miles per second. At these speeds, "even dust could cause damage to a spacecraft.”
The tests are currently being carried out at the Remote Hypervelocity Test Laboratory at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The space agency is using Two Stage Light Gas Guns which shoot small pellets at a speed of more than 5 miles per second to destroy the space debris. According to NASA, the first stage uses standard gunpowder as propellant. The second stage uses a highly compressed hydrogen which is further sent into a smaller tube, increasing the gun pressure even further. This is a highly complicated and dangerous process and any explosion from the gun could level the whole building, according to NASA.
What is the Mars Sample Return Mission?
According to NASA, the Mars Sample Return programme is a series of missions to retrieve scientific samples of Mars collected by the Perseverance rover. One of the most ambitious space missions ever planned, the Mars Sample Return mission would allow scientists to study those samples using state-of-the-art technology here on Earth.
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