Kuiper stares intensely at the camera in front of a spacesuit.

Beta cloth

Kuiper negotiates a raise at the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Thank you @staffordmuseum for allowing Kuiper to visit.

Behind Kuiper is a “beta cloth” Apollo inflight garment worn by Tom Stafford during prep for Apollo 10. I’ll put full pic (with more depth of field) in story highlights.

In addition to improvements in hatch design, electrical safety and emergency procedures, spacesuits also received upgrades after the Apollo 1 tragedy. They were previously constructed from nylon. Under normal Earth conditions, nylon isn’t usually very easy to set on fire (although it can melt and cause burns.) However, a pure oxygen environment “supported combustion” of nylon (according to the Apollo Accident Congressional hearing held on February 7, 1967.)

In the hearing, NASA reported that they had already been in the process of testing a new material called “beta fiber”: “a very fine glass filament, approximately 3.8 microns in diameter, which can be used to weave fabrics, webbings, tapes, and brands; and can also be used to make mats, felts, filter materials, and in insulation material..because it is a glass, silicon dioxide, has a useful service temperature up to 1200 F..” Although “soft and flexible,” testing had found that fabric made with the new fiber wore out too quickly.

To increase durability, they ended up adding a special Teflon coating, and thus “beta cloth” was born. Although we don’t use it for spacesuits anymore, the material has come in pretty handy here on Earth. Pound for pound, beta cloth is stronger than steel, lightweight and lets in light while reflecting heat. As a result of these properties, it is used in roofs and canopies all over the world in sports stadiums, airports and convention centers.

Next time you’re at Denver International Airport, Houston’s Reliant Stadium, the Millennium Dome in London, the Orlando Convention Center, the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, SFO (International terminal) or the San Diego Convention Center (and many, many more), look up. You just might spot a little piece of Apollo.

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzeTBMXl2OE/

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