Curiosity's Heat Shield in Detail
This color full-resolution image showing the heat shield of NASA's Curiosity rover was obtained during descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet (16 meters) from the spacecraft.
NASA Ames led the design, testing, and development of MSL’s thermal protection system (TPS), including the heat shield, backshell, and parachute close-outcone. Together with a team from NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado, Ames’ engineers produced the protective packaging that will be the first TPS to endure the highest heating of any Mars entry. Due to MSL’s size, the atmospheric flow will change from a laminar (smooth and well-behaved) flow to a turbulent (rough and chaotic) flow over the heat shield, resulting in significantly higher heating.
Photo Credit: NASA