• Think of a truck going down a long hill. Sometimes the brakes fail. Why? Because the only way a truck can stop is to turn its energy of motion into energy of heat on the brake pads. But when the brakes get so hot they can't absorb any more heat, they can't slow the truck down any more. In the case of the space shuttle, the whole surface is the "brake." It converts the energy of forward motion into energy of heat on the tiles. And just as the brakes on a truck heat up going down a long hill, so do the tiles on the space shuttle. That's what they are designed to do, to change energy of motion into energy of friction. The only other thing they could do is redesign the whole thing so the engines could reverse, like on a jet plane, but then it would have to be a lot bigger and carry a lot more fuel. If you can think of a better way to do this, you'll probably win a Nobel Prize. Or at least make a lot of money. By the way, the answer to 99% of all "Why don't they" questions is "Because it costs more to do it that way."

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