Science: Blunt v. Ablative

The body of a long-range missile lives only for its nose. Once shot into space, the nose, with its payload of thermonuclear explosive, speeds on alone, and its problem becomes re-entry into the atmosphere. U.S. missilemen need nose cones that will not burn up from friction as they plummet earthward in a long arc at up to 16,000 m.p.h.

This month, when the Air Force's Atlas sped 2,500 miles over the Atlantic, pictures of its virtually blunt nose seemed strange to the streamline-minded. But current Atlas and Thor noses are likely to stay blunt...

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