Thursday, October 31, 2013

What's in a Name? The Space Blanket

You know those handy mylar sheets that work great for keeping body heat in and wind and moisture out? They go by a number of names, including "Space Blankets." I'd always imagined that the "space" part of the name was a sort of marketing gimmick. You know, Mylar being a space-age material, or something.

It turns out, the name has quite a bit more meaning than I imagined. Mylar was definitely a NASA invention, but that's not all. There's actually this impressive little story that explains how the blankets earned their name:

The first United States experimental space station in orbit, Skylab, lost its thermal protection shield, or sun-shade, during launch on May 14, 1973. Sans a shield, temperatures in Skylab became dangerously high, rendering the orbital workshop uninhabitable and threatening to ruin the interior insulation and adhesive. Something had to be done quickly before the first crew could be sent to man the orbiting lab.

Engineers and scientists worked around the clock to develop an emergency repair procedure. In this picture, two seamstresses stitch together a sun-shade for the craft. The Skylab crew and the repair kits were launched just 11 days after the incident. The crew deployed the sun-shade during an EVA (Extravehicular Activity) the next day.

The sun-shade, you guessed it, was a big o'l Mylar sheet. Or Space Blanket, if you will.

Here's more info on Skylab.

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