Looking back: The Sky at Night
On the 15 July episode of The Sky at Night, 50 years ago, Patrick Moore looked ahead to Apollo 11, due to launch just two days later.
One concern about the landing was the threat from micrometeorites – small fragments of debris travelling through space at tens of kilometres per second. Though tiny, their incredible speed means they can hit spacecraft hard enough to dent the metal of the outer hull.
While they were on the lunar surface the astronauts had to rely on their spacesuits for protection. Fortunately, the suits had many layers so even if the outer ones failed, the inner ones would hold. Even the helmet visors were made from special material that could withstand such impacts. In fact, the moonwalkers were probably safer than astronauts spacewalking while in Earth orbit. Tests from the Gemini missions found that there were many more micrometeorites near Earth, and an increasing number of them were man-made – just 12 years into the Space Age, space junk was already becoming a problem.
Apollo’s lunar spacesuits were made to withstand impacts from micrometeorites