Blanketing Space with DuPontTM Kevlar®
Imagine this: you’re out in the vast emptiness of space. It’s unimaginably vast—so vast, in fact, that it has taken you decades of travel at tens of thousands of miles an hour to get where you are—on the edge of our solar neighborhood. But consider the view!
Of course, you could never make it far without some serious protection and warmth. Space is cold, and space is dangerous. A tiny, 1mm particle could cause a catastrophe. The energy from colliding with one of them at typical speeds is about 3 times greater than that of a 9mm bullet. Recent NASA forays to the orbital space of Pluto and, most recently, the surface of a racing comet have taken us to colder and more dangerous places than we’ve ever been before, but we’d have never made even the start of those journeys without the innovative science of modern materials technology, including DuPont advanced materials.
Though no longer considered a full-scale planet in our solar system, our distant friend Pluto has been revealing a trove of secrets in recent years. Scientists working with the Hubble telescope have discovered that Pluto’s “Russian doll-like” system of orbiting moons is much more complex than previously anticipated. As an example, just recently, a new 6- to 15-mile diameter moon called P5 was discovered in a distant orbit around the former planet.
Eager to unveil more about this distant cousin, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto at 30,000 miles per hour in July and September of this year, braving rings of space rock—rocks much larger than a 1mm micrometeoroid and packing an ever more terrifying punch—that can seriously endanger the mission. The probe, however, is armored with bullet-resistant Kevlar® from DuPont, which will protect it from the brutal environment at the edge of the solar system.
A little closer to home (relatively speaking), DuPont was also involved in facilitating the European Space Agency’s recent feat of landing a spacecraft on a comet’s surface. For 10 long years and 4 billion miles of travel, the Rosetta space probe traveled through the void of space in which the temperatures varied up to 300°C. Amid this harsh space environment, multi-layer insulation blankets made using DuPont™ Kapton® polyimide films protected the delicate instruments and the unique Philae lander the Rosetta carried with it, so the eventual approach and difficult rendezvous could be carried out.
Advanced materials such as these are increasingly key to fulfilling humanity’s drive toward exploration—now and for generations to come.