This summer marks 50 years since the lunar landing of Apollo 11 with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. July 20, 1969 will be the official anniversary of that “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
Perhaps the most incredible of all the space-age parts perfected for the historic Apollo 11 moon mission was the roofing material for the rocket’s Command Module – the cone of the spacecraft that would ultimately bring the three American heroes safely back to Earth.
Developed by Avco Specialty Materials for NASA, the shingles, better known as the “heat shield,” was composed of brazed steel honeycomb tiles impregnated with phenolic epoxy resin.
Now, picture a house like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz, lifted off the ground, racing through the sky, caught up in epic, tornado-force winds. Upon the Command Module’s return to Earth it was traveling over 17,000 MPH as it began to re-enter our atmosphere. The tiny craft, propelled by nothing but momentum and gravity, with its three brave souls nestled inside, became surrounded by temperatures that rose to 5,000° F, quite a bit hotter than the skies over Munchkin Land! Under those kinds of conditions, not only would Dorothy’s airborne house have lost all its shingles, but…well you can imagine.
A high tech roof coated with 4 x 3 x 2-inch brazed steel honeycomb “shingles”…That’s what made it possible for Apollo 11 to bring our boys home…uncooked!