(Photo Credit: ESA)
The European Space Agency is sending a distinctly un-vegan probe to the sun. When it launches in 2017, the simply named will have a titanium foil heat shield on the outside painted black, with a hint of charred animal bone.
Black charred bones have been used as a pigment for thousands of years. Now the Stone Age tool is ready for the Space Age. This black outer layer will allow the craft to absorb heat and radiate it out, protecting the instruments inside.
The process of making the pigment involves charring the animal bones, applying abrasives to the titanium to remove the top layers, and then "spray painting" it with the charred animal bones. In lab tests, the shield held up to all sorts of damage, including extreme heat, extreme cold, and intense impacts.
Once in orbit around the sun, the Solar Orbiter will study the interactions of solar particles and space, analyze solar winds, gather images, and study the electromagnetic fields around our star. During the trip it will, at some points, travel closer to the sun than the orbit of Mercury, protected from the scalding temperatures by an ancient technology.