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Name: Su
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: Czeck Republic



Question:
I was asked by a student, why a space suit does not get stiff in space from freezing temperatures (the movie Sunshine has raised many questions related to temperatures in vacuums, etc. and while I can answer the others I am not 100% on this one).


Replies:
Hi Su,

Many materials remain pliable in the cold. An everyday example of one is silicone which is unaffected by extremely low temperatures. There are many examples of cold-tolerant materials as well. So the answer to your question is simply that space suit materials are carefully chosen to be of a type not affected by extremes of temperatures (both cold and hot).

Regards,
Bob Wilson.


Su,

There are many reasons why space suits do not get stiff in space. Some things that come immediately to mind are: (1) The material is calibrated for the expected working temperature such that they remain above their glass transition temperature - the temperature at which polymeric materials stiffen. (2) The space suits are heated and insulated - this keeps the person using it from freezing and keeps the heat generated from escaping rapidly into space. (3) A suit exposed to the sun's radiation is actually exposed to quite a bit of UV radiation and this could be used to keep the suit warm (in fact, there is so much radiation that the face shields have to have an extra shielding.

Greg (Roberto Gregorius)



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