Gold In Space
When you ask most people to give you an example of where gold is used, the first answer you are likely to get is in jewelry. While this may be a very large use for this precious metal, the jewelry industry is no longer the biggest user of newly mined gold. The electronics industry has for many years been using gold for a multitude of purposes ranging from manufacturing cable connectors to the thin connective lines on printed circuit boards. In the 1970s the Voyager space probe left the earth on a one way trip out of the solar system, on board was a solid gold disc that carried thousand of recordings. These recording were personal messages from world leaders, copies of radio and television broadcasts and many others. Gold was chosen as the medium because it is one of the few materials that can be used to store recorded information that will not degrade over time and is not affected by the various changes in temperature and conditions that Voyager was expected to encounter on its journey through the stars. As they travel through space the various craft can be subjected to various forms of radiation. To protect the craft, the electronic equipment and the crew if any, a thin shielding of gold that measures 0.15mm is used. The reflective qualities of gold also make it the perfect material to help reflect the heat of the sun when the craft is exposed to the full might of the sun's power. Ultra thin layers of gold are woven in the visors worn by those astronauts that will be performing extra- vehicular activities to protect their face and eyes from the effects of solar radiation. The US space shuttle Columbia contained over 40Kg of gold when it was completed and ready to fly. Much of this gold was used as brazing alloys, in plastic coating, in large amounts as electrical contacts and in the fabrication of the fuel cells. Many of the wires used through the space shuttle, the various rockets used by many countries and the space station are also made from gold. The reason for this is twofold, first gold is considered to be one of the best conductors, which is vital to the split second timing needed to control this type of vehicle. Secondly gold in far more malleable than many of the other metals used in the manufacture of wiring especially under the different extremes in temperature that many parts of a space craft are likely to encounter. Without the use of gold in so many applications, space travel would never have become possible.
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