In this video adapted from NASA 360, examine the tiles that protected the space shuttle and its crew from the high temperatures experienced in flight, particularly during reentry. Martin Wilson, manager of NASA’s Thermal Protection Systems Manufacturing Facility, explains the process used to make the tiles, which insulated the body of the shuttle from temperatures that approached 3000°F (1649°C). Learn how the tiles began as a mixture—or slurry—of ceramic fiber, water, and chemical additives that was pressed into blocks. After drying, the blocks were machined to their proper dimensions, coated for strength, and kiln-fired to consolidate, or “sinter.” Wilson demonstrates just how quickly the tile material dissipates heat by touching one straight out of a 2200°F oven. (Don’t try this at home!)
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