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.
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