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Innovation Articles

Silicones for Moon Boots and Space Travel

October 12, 2015

GE Silicones

Helping Propel Ideas Skyward

When Neil Armstrong took his first small step on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969, it wasn’t just a giant leap for mankind – it was a giant leap for GE Silicones. Armstrong took that step in moon boots featuring soles made from GE’s advanced silicone rubber. And today, materials from GE Silicones – now named Momentive – are used on every manned U.S. space flight.

It all started with the need to protect a spacecraft and the people inside from considerable temperature shifts, an unpredictable climate and unfamiliar terrain.

NASA first asked “What if?” in the late 1950s, setting forth a decade-long race to the moon that seemed like a near impossible dream. The means to land on the moon weren’t invented yet – and neither were the materials. That’s where GE Silicones stepped in to help. Materials engineered by the company helped make “What if?” a reality for the astronauts on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.

The soles of the boots that protected Armstrong’s and the other astronauts’ feet were manufactured with advanced silicone materials from GE Silicones. So were the astronauts’ gloves. And so were numerous materials used in the spacecraft that took them to space, to the moon and back home to Earth. That means every human-made imprint on the lunar surface – and every manned roundtrip to space – has been enabled through the use of silicone products developed by GE Silicones and Momentive.

A History of Firsts

The long-standing partnership with NASA continues today, as Momentive works nonstop to develop and refine advanced silicone materials for aerospace and aviation applications. From materials that bond thermal shields on spacecraft and rockets, to aircraft assembly adhesives and sealants, and to vibration-dampening potting materials for vital electronics, our room temperature vulcanization (RTV) silicones help keep NASA’s fleet operating smoothly.

Momentive sets the standard of excellence in aerospace and aviation silicone technologies. From the beginning, we have been at the forefront of silicone advances. We’re proud of our long-term relationships in the industry. We’re inspired by our clients’ needs and imaginations. And we’re continually researching new processing methods and formulations, which have enabled several “firsts,” including:  

  • — Developing the first direct process for making methylchlorosilane, the key building block for all silicone products today
  • — Creating the first silane coupling agent for fiberglass and composites
  • — Producing the first construction sealant that hardens at room temperature
  • — Designing the first successful one-part addition cure technology for adhesives  

When it comes to assembling, bonding, insulating and protecting critical components in aerospace and aviation applications, we don’t leave anything to chance. Our silicone products are easy to process and generally maintain their elastomeric properties in extreme temperature environments, resist weathering, offer excellent dielectric properties and offer a low compression set.  

Inspiring Future Innovations 

Just as Momentive has inspired generations of aerospace and aviation engineers since the 1950s, we’re focused on future generations as well. That’s why we donated a prototype of the moon boot used for the historic Apollo 11 mission to The Children’s Museum of Science and Technology in Troy, New York. When children who visit the museum grow up to become engineers, Momentive will be there to work by their side, collaborating with them just as we do with NASA’s engineers today. Just as we do with all of our customers – collaborating to propel their ideas forward and, in NASA’s case, propelling ideas skyward.  

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