Gravity wasn’t too far off the mark. You’re looking through a hole, made by simulated space debris, in the reinforced Kevlar-Nextel fabric that makes up the outer skin of European Space Agency spacecraft.
The test was carried out by researchers from the Fraunhofer Ernst Mach Institut for High-Speed Dynamics, who fired a 7.5mm diameter aluminium bullet at 7km/second towards sample of material. According to the ESA, that represents the upper end of the type of debris the its craft need to be able to survive.
The Kevlar-Nextel material, developed by Stephanie Kwolek of the DuPont company, is stronger than steel — but still struggles in the face of hyper-velocity aluminium bullets. Still, the good news is that in the ESA’s spacecraft this kevlar cladding covers a 3mm-thick aluminium wall, which actually survived the impact. Phew. [ESA]