And here’s another great point of trivia. It is NOT friction that causes the bits to heat up and burn! NASA calls it “ram pressure” and it is what they use to shed kinetic energy and slow returning aircraft enough to use parachutes. Scientists call it a normal function of the natural gas law. PV=nRT. The gas in front of the high-velocity object is rapidly compressed, which heats up that gas, which in turn heats up the object. Kinetic energy is converted into thermal energy.