Atmospheric re-entry is a tricky thing, because just a slight misstep could lead to disaster. The slightest angles could mean either going back home or having your spacecraft burn out in the Atmosphere. In Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta, the Gundam franchise introduced the Ballute System, which aids in atmospheric re-entry. Now, it seems that this idea from the Gundam franchise has inspired scientists to apply it in real life.
In the Gundam anime, particularly the Universal Century (UC), mobile suits and ships use ballutes to slow their decent down and prevent burning up upon atmospheric re-entry. Similarly, researchers are doing the same in real life. Using the same material as fireproof clothing, scientists have now made their own version of the ballute. They then used it on a microsatellite named EGG, which they sent from the International Space Station. It works much like a parachute which shields the microsatellite from heat… much like Gundam’s Ballute system.
Needless to say, the Gundam-inspired experiment became a huge success. They are now looking to making the system compatible with manned spacecraft like Russia’s Soyuz. They aim to lower the risk of burn-ups while re-entry, something that NASA and other space agencies are all too familiar with.
As for the Ballute in the Gundam anime, they’re quite important to the plot. After all, we wouldn’t have future installments if Quattro Bajeena and his Hyakku Shiki burned up on re-entry, right? The Ballute is so important in Gundam that Bandai even released some as additional accessories for GunPla.
Source: Asahi Shimbun