Allplastics Engineering pays tribute to the historic moon landing by spotlighting a special selection of materials that have contributed to the success of ambitious space programs.
The Gemini and Apollo programs inspired numerous scientific discoveries in space and on Earth. Shock absorbing athletic shoes, translucent Teflon coated retractable roofing fabric, firefighting breathing apparatus, solar panels, chlorine-free pools and heart monitors are some of the innovations made possible by man’s expeditions into space.
While recognising the role of high performance rockets, powerful propellants and billions of research dollars in advancing the moon landing goal, one should also acknowledge the contribution of materials such as engineering plastics to the success of space flights by allowing astronauts to view their surroundings, breathe oxygen easier and travel more comfortably in orbit around the blue planet or on the way to the moon.
Plastics are often lighter than materials such as steel or aluminium. The use of lighter polymers allows rockets and spacecraft to get off the ground more efficiently and cost-effectively with less rocket fuel. Rocket fuel is highly volatile – the less the spacecraft carries on-board, the better for all involved in the space mission.
Plastic seals, flooring, instrument panels and seats are among the many plastic components that have made spacecraft lighter and more manoeuvrable.
One prominent example of the use of plastic in space missions is the polycarbonate lens used on the helmets of spacesuits. The lightweight polycarbonate is shatterproof at 250 times the strength of glass. While standard polycarbonate is easily scratched, a special coating is used to make these lenses mar resistant, making the material ideal for astronaut visors, windows and portals.