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NASA Uses Gold On Its Spacecraft

With all the talk about how hard it is to get funding for missions into outer space, this might sound crazy: NASA covers many of its spacecraft in real gold. Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll realize it's not so crazy after all. One of the biggest threats to the delicate electronics on a spacecraft is radiation. With no atmosphere to protect them from that radiation, electronics get a direct hit, transferring heat and risking serious damage. Gold is very, very good at reflecting radiation. It reflects as much infrared and UV radiation as copper, aluminum, and silver, but it does them one better by absorbing a large amount of visible light. This means it won't blind astronauts with massive reflections. And anyone who's owned jewelry knows that silver and copper tarnish easily. Gold stays shiny, which means less maintenance both for jewelry wearers and for NASA engineers. Explore the science of gold in the videos below.

The gold of the solar arrays, illuminated from behind by the sunrise, provides stark contrast to the blackness of space in this scene, photographed at the completion of the servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

What's With the Gold Foil on Spacecraft?

Gold is good for so much more than looking pretty.

Chemistry Of The World Cup Trophy

Why isn't the World Cup trophy made of pure gold?

Ernest Rutherford's Gold Foil Experiment

Watch the experiment that led us to discover the atomic nucleus.

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