Science Questions

Why do Ships Lose Contact When They're Entering the Atmosphere?

Mon, 6th Aug 2012

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Question

Teo Gibson, via Facebook asked:

Why do ships lose contact when they're entering the atmosphere?

Answer

If you have a high speed entry, you create a pocket of ionised gas around your probe.  The gas is heated up so much, it becomes ionised - itís stripped of its electrons.  That is not transparent to radio waves, so you have a radio black out. 

The same thing happens with vehicles re-entering the Earthís atmosphere.  It used to happen with the shuttle I think and the Apollo vehicles.  So thatís the main reason.  Itís the state of the gas around a high speed probe.

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