New Satellite Shield Uses Pigment Found In Prehistoric Cave Paintings

New Satellite Shield Uses Pigment Found In Prehistoric Cave Paintings

The European Space Agency’s new solar satellite will be partially shielded using a bone-based pigment found in prehistoric cave paintings. The result will be a surreal cross between the earliest era of human cognition and creativity — that underground cinematic world of flickering animal images found in European caves — and the outer reaches of our current mechanical sciences.

“A pigment once daubed onto prehistoric cave paintings is set to protect ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission from the Sun’s close-up glare,” the ESA specifically reports. “Burnt bone charcoal will be applied to the spacecraft’s titanium heatshield using a novel technique.”

This “novel technique” actually comes from an Irish medical company that figured out a way “to coat titanium medical implants” in a grit-blasting process that sounds not unlike powder-coating.

Image: Wikimedia/ESA

All of which means that a new satellite, augmented with techniques usually applied to medical implants, will soon be floating around in space, coated in prehistoric bone charcoal.

The absolutely awesome suggestion here, that Lascaux-like structures will be blasted away from Earth — where satellites are actually wing-like unfolding panels coated with ancient human chemistry, like prehistoric objects adrift amongst the stars — is not only rife with metaphoric potential but also a fascinating next step for the material sciences. [ESA]

Lead image: ESA/AOES