The space shuttle orbiter developed by NASA in the late 20th century used a huge number of heat-resistant tiles to provide protection from the heat of re-entry.
Early space vehicles, such as the Mercury and Apollo vehicles, used an ablative form of heat shield. In these vehicles, the heat energy generated by atmospheric friction was dissipated by burning the heatshield away in order to prevent damage to spacecraft structures.

This is not from any source, as Earth space shuttles were never explicitly referenced in Trek, much less their technology. The latter applies to Earth space probes as well. Addionally, was the term "heat shield" every specifically used in the cited references or is this article based solely on speculative observation? --Alan del Beccio 03:12, 7 October 2006 (UTC)

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