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Plastic spaceships may be the key to space exploration

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posted on Aug, 26 2005 @ 04:25 PM

Plastic Spaceships

by Patrick L. Barry
Huntsville AL (SPX) Aug 26, 2005

After reading this article, you might never look at trash bags the same way again. We all use plastic trash bags; they're so common that we hardly give them a second thought. So who would have guessed that a lowly trash bag might hold the key to sending humans to Mars?
Most household trash bags are made of a polymer called polyethylene. Variants of that molecule turn out to be excellent at shielding the most dangerous forms of space radiation. Scientists have long known this. The trouble has been trying to build a spaceship out of the flimsy stuff.

But now NASA scientists have invented a groundbreaking, polyethylene-based material called RXF1 that's even stronger and lighter than aluminum.

"This new material is a first in the sense that it combines superior structural properties with superior shielding properties," says Nasser Barghouty, Project Scientist for NASA's Space Radiation Shielding Project at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

To Mars in a plastic spaceship? As daft as it may sound, it could be the safest way to go.

Article link

Sounds weird but cool.

posted on Aug, 26 2005 @ 04:27 PM
Plastic in the median term maybe, but Carbon Nanotechnology will be a major competitor IMHO.

posted on Aug, 26 2005 @ 06:14 PM

Although I doubt it would be better then a large magnet. (earth has done a good job at shielding why not take pages from its book)

posted on Aug, 26 2005 @ 06:42 PM

Originally posted by Murcielago
Although I doubt it would be better then a large magnet. (earth has done a good job at shielding why not take pages from its book)

Weight would be the big factor... Plus the mechanics fo it would be much more complicated than just using something as a shield.

posted on Aug, 27 2005 @ 12:44 PM
Plastics, the future of weapons technology. We may one day see a tank armored in plastic or an airplane with a plastic rather than aluminum exterior. Unlike nanotech, plastics can already be made at an affordable cost, nanotech is decades away from this achievement.

posted on Aug, 27 2005 @ 01:58 PM
I was reading an article at about somthing like this.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) are tiny cylinders of carbon atoms that have 100 times the strength of steel (and a sixth of its weight) and have been proven to conduct electricity better than copper. The material is self-supporting and transparent and has been shown to have solar cells capabilities which could mean that they would be able to produce electricity. These amazing properties obviously have applications in aerospace and the military and in a variety of other industries

Sounds like interesting stuff

posted on Aug, 27 2005 @ 03:42 PM

Originally posted by Frosty
Plastics, the future of weapons technology. We may one day see a tank armored in plastic or an airplane with a plastic rather than aluminum exterior. Unlike nanotech, plastics can already be made at an affordable cost, nanotech is decades away from this achievement.

lol All that's needed is a manufacturing breakthrough, just because some of the more wild applications are decades out, doesn't it won't be used in(and is probably already being used) in space applications. Don't paint this new tech with a broad brush, as there are allot of facets too it.

Can Plastics absorbe Microwaves? We can make a Multi-walled Nanotube Solar Sail that is propelled by a microwave laser, the Tubes absorbe the Microwaves and emmit heat producing thrust. At least theoretically in my own mind
Remember Plastics are much heavier then any nano-polymer and in Space Exploration that is key.

posted on Aug, 28 2005 @ 01:37 AM
when you can make a plastic that can be heated up by a blowtorch for a minute, then be cool to the touch withen seconds, you know plastic is the future

That or exotic composites that can be molded creating a seamless hull

posted on Aug, 28 2005 @ 12:02 PM
I like this particular idea of using plastics. Materials technology has come a long way and I don't think it will become too long before we start seeing carbon nanotubes on the market as well. Look at the ammount of plastics on rifles now for example, but until they come along the next big contender for this sort of thing is magnesium.

How do I know this?

Well my 4 housemates are Materials Scientists, 2 are Bsc and one of them is studying for his Masters, potentially PHD. Recently he worked at a company specialising in magnesium. He was telling me a lot of aircraft manufacturers, space people are starting to switch a lot of their airframes to magnesium. Why? Becuase its lighter than aluminium and just as strong, two very important things when building planes, rockets. Until this plastic technology/carbon nanotubes is a reality Magnesium is the future. Mark my words, cos Ive heard it from one of the smartest guys I know. (Btw he is currently at one of the best Universities in the country studying for his Masters so as a source I consider him very very reliable)

Also, I shouldn't really say this, but NASA approached his company to do some work for an as of yet pulically unknown space shuttle. This is what he told me, and he couldn't tell me anymore. I can't offer links or hard evidence and I know it looks like Im just BSing, but you'll just have to take it or leave it on my word.

posted on Aug, 29 2005 @ 05:43 PM
I remember seeing a lecture about five years ago by a NASA contractor and physicist (I can't remember his name, offhand, other than the fact that his nickname was "Fuzzy") who talked about making space suit linings out of polyethelene dropcloths. He had a prototype made, and all it cost him was two 8' x 10' plastic painter's dropcloths, two rolls of wax paper, and an iron. Apparently, since polyethelene will fuse together without burning when heated to the proper temperature, all you had to do to create airtight seams was iron the pieces together. He used wax paper to cover the seams to keep the softened heated plastic from sticking to the iron. He demonstrated the air-tight qualities of the suit by inflating it to about 15 psi with an air compressor, and leaving it inflated during the remainder of his lecture (about an hour and a half), to show that there were no air gaps or slow leaks.

He claimed that the polyethelene suit would protect against mild to moderate radiation, as well as provide a completely airtight barrier, within which air could be circulated for breathing. This being true, I see no reason why something such as this couldn't be used on a larger scale as a liner around the crew compartment on a spacecraft, under the rigid/heat tolerant skin. This also provides a good portion of what's needed for a space suit that would be easy to move in, also having the added benefit of reducing the cost of constructing a space suit from hundreds of thousands of dollars down to maybe only a couple thousand or less, once you've figured in the heating/cooling system, breathing apparatus, insulation, etc.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 03:12 AM
I agree obsidian468, thats quite a novel idea. Have you heard of the idea that has been floated around NASA of making space capsuals inflatable? I.e. have a blow up space station? I can't find a link off the top of my head as I have to nip to work, (oh the life of a software engineer) but using the technology you have suggested one could easily come up with a cheap and simple space stationm as well as space suits.

I know the next things on people minds is micrometeors which might render these blow up capsuals useless, my suggestion would be to put them on the moon to make a cheap and easy lunar base. Simply burry them underground. Inflate and cover with soil! I agree totally, platics, carbon nanotubes are the future!

posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 10:39 AM
you'd have to have a shield around while you were inflating it though, or the mm would burst it that way

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