The rocket sled used to test the penetrator (Image: Astrium)
The ice target before impact (Image: Astrium)
The ices target and bunker after impact (Image: Astrium)
The penetrator hitting the ice target as part of efforts to develop a way to deliver instruments beneath a planet's surface (Image: Astrium)
The penetrator in flight (Image: Astrium)
The assembled penetrator and components (Image: Astrium)
Normally, a spacecraft slamming into a planet’s surface at the speed of sound is considered a bad thing, but the European Space Agency (ESA) plans to do just that. As part of its Core Technology Programme for Cosmic Vision, the agency fired a pair of experimental surface penetrators from a rocket sled at a test facility at the UK Military of Defence Pendine site in Wales last July. The goal is to find ways of delivering instruments beneath the ground or ice of alien worlds without drilling.
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