Fast Facts: The Foil Helped Astronauts Get Back To Earth

First Posted: Mar 22, 2017 05:45 AM EDT

When someone mentions the word "foil," two things come to mind: the aluminum sheets that can be found in the kitchen and the mathematical method used to help kids learn. What many do not know is that foil was also used by scientists to send someone into space but, more specifically, for the Apollo astronauts to come back to Earth safely.

The video described how foil helped with the Apollo's thermal protection, which helped keep three people safe as they went to the Moon and back. Re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere would expose the Apollo to heat up to over 4,000 degrees Farenheit. Without the foil that protected theApollo mission, the astronauts would have been engulfed in a massive ball of fire.

Of course, this is not the only use of the foil for these missions. Popular Mechanics noted that the Solar Wind Composition Experiment on several Apollo missions were made of aluminium foil. When they are exposed to the Sun for periods of up to 45 hours, solar wind particles get caught in them and can be brought back to Earth for study.

According to the Lunar and Planetary Institute, using controlled foils to collect particles from space allows scientists to determine chemical compositions of the particles collected. By using controlled experiments to the Moon at limited periods, variations in the composition of the solar winds can be determined. These variations were then correlated in the intensity of the solar wind, as noted from the Apollo's magnetic field instruments.

Another thing that NASA uses constantly is gold foil, which is among the most workable metals that they can use for spacecrafts, considering that these are not radioactive. They, too, serve as a heat shield or even as a radiation shield. This is important for astronauts because they are exposed to direct radiation and heat impact in space. Gold reflects heat and UV radiation, which means it has the ability to soak up light before burning down a spacecraft. pointed out that gold does not rust or tarnish like other metals, so there is less care and maintenance needed to ensure the mission is successful. This is why NASA uses gold in many contexts, such as external reflectors, astronaut visors, IR radiation filters or infrared and ultraviolet radiation shield.

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