Wood in space

Posted by Rumin Mann
July 13th, 2010

The Royal Society made an inspired choice, rather than an odd one, in deciding to celebrate its 350th anniversary by sending a piece of wood into space on the shuttle Atlantis.

Not only did the piece of wood come from the apple tree that inspired Isaac Newton to develop his theory of gravity, but wood is also useful in space. White oak tiles performed admirably as a heat shield on a Chinese recoverable satellite. The tiles developed a layer of insulating char which impeded heat flow into the vehicle while it was entering Earth’s atmosphere. Balsa wood was used as a crushable impact attenuator to protect delicate components such as transmitters when spacecraft were deliberately crash-landed on the moon. Who knows what uses might be found for apple wood?

Newton's inspirational apple tree is still going strong (Image:  Chris Wiles Photography)
Newton’s inspirational apple tree is still going strong (Image: Chris Wiles Photography)
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