Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Popcorn Heat Shield

Ablative, buttery landings.
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This is like a normal heat shield but with embedded popcorn kernels in a thicker honeycomb structure, affixed with golden flavor resin. As the spacecraft descends, they heat up and burst, diffusing the heat with a small explosion of moisture and giving high flying birds a snack.
mylodon, Sep 16 2022

Popcorn: critical temperature https://royalsociet...1098/rsif.2014.1247
[a1, Sep 16 2022]

Apollo-Soyuz re-rentry https://en.wikipedi...entry_and_aftermath
[a1, Sep 16 2022]

Diacetyl https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diacetyl
Formerly used as a butter-like flavouring, almost as bad to inhale as unignited RCS propellant. [a1, Sep 16 2022]

It doesn't have to be toxic hypergolic https://ntrs.nasa.g...ads/20000021515.pdf
[mylodon, Sep 16 2022]

[link]






       At sea level popcorn pops at a temperature far below what a heat shield handles on re-entry. Exposed to the thinner upper atmosphere it would pop even sooner. So your Jiffy-Pop will have to be the innermost layer of the heat shield to keep it from going off until the last phases of re-entry, right before the drogue chute opens in the upper atmosphere.   

       And if you really want it to be a bird snack, you need to protect it from toxic materials of the outer heat shield, as well as any propellant residue. Astronauts on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) were accidentally exposed to toxic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fumes, caused by unignited reaction control system (RCS) hypergolic propellants venting from the spacecraft and reentering a cabin air intake.   

       Unlike diacetyl, it didn’t have a nice buttery flavour.
a1, Sep 16 2022
  

       I Can't Believe It's Not Diacetyl!
RayfordSteele, Sep 16 2022
  

       [a1], you are like a black cloud and a brisk wind on a fine day, that blows icecream from toddler's hands and hair across the mouths of two lovers kissing.
mylodon, Sep 16 2022
  

       That's the nicest thing anyone has said to me in the past, I dunno, 4 or 5 seconds at least.   

       Thanks for the link on non-toxic RCS propellants. Will certainly help make the popcorn heat shield safer. If you can't make it completely safe though, maybe the idea could be repurposed to inflate the floatation bag for the recovery capsule?
a1, Sep 16 2022
  
      
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