Huge Heat Shield Has Huge Task: Protecting NASA’s Next Mars Rover

When NASA’s newest Mars rover dives into the Martian atmosphere next year, it will be cocooned in the largest “beat the heat” system ever sent to the Red Planet.
To ensure that the nuclear-powered rover โ€” called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), or “Curiosity” for short โ€” survives its fiery entry and reaches a pinpointed landing spot, it will have a huge heat shield and back shell that together form a protective aeroshell.
The heat shield is outfitted with something called the Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI) โ€” a set of sensors that will record atmospheric conditions and gauge how well the heat shield thwarts the brutal welcoming that Curiosity will receive high above the red Martian dirt.