SHINY SPACE­SHIPS

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science - Dr He­len Cz­er­ski is a physi­cist, oceanog­ra­pher and broad­caster. Her lat­est BBC se­ries is From Ice To Fire: The In­cred­i­ble Science Of Tem­per­a­ture

The fu­tur­is­tic space­craft drawn by ex­cited artists in the 1950s may not have ar­rived as imag­ined, but those artists did get one thing right: space­craft are shiny, and al­ways will be. This is all to do with tem­per­a­ture. Take the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion: full sun­light can raise its sur­face tem­per­a­ture to 121°C, while spending an hour in Earth’s shade can drop the same sur­face to -157°C. The only way to keep the oc­cu­pants safe is to re­flect away as much sun­light as pos­si­ble, us­ing a shiny, sil­very mesh made from alu­minised my­lar that blocks all so­lar ra­di­a­tion.

Full sun­light can raise the ISS’s tem­per­a­ture to dan­ger­ous lev­els, but a re­flec­tive coat­ing keeps things com­fort­able

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