Most of the planets and their satellites in the solar system, to which we would like to land and explore them, has an atmosphere. Where dense, where rarefied, but when the spacecraft descends in any case, friction and heating will arise, which the heat shield must prevent. Cumbersome and heavy construction, but recently a student at the University of Manchester, Rui Wu proposed an original prototype.
By default, the heat shield has two functions – it receives and dissipates heat, not allowing it to heat the lander itself, plus it hinders the fall due to resistance to the atmosphere. Depending on the conditions of planting, the screen can have a solid size, so almost always it is a folding structure that moves apart mechanically or inflates. Rui Wu proposed to use the principle of the seeds of the lionfish of some terrestrial plants.
The lion is easy to twist and maintains a stable rotation from the slightest gust of wind, so if you design a similar mechanism, it can rotate in contact with any extraterrestrial atmosphere. As the centrifugal force rotates, the pistons are forced to unbend and stretch the flexible skirt-shield from the heat-resistant material, which will ensure the dissipation of heat and inhibition from resistance to the medium. The main thing in this concept is that everything works without sources of energy and control from the outside, in the passive mode.
According to the author of the invention, it is excellent for small descent vehicles, for example, cargo containers, which will be discharged to the colonists from the orbital station as the transport workers arrive. Such passive shields are simpler and much cheaper than any engines and parachute systems, plus they are all reusable.