NASA Tweetup: “Holding a Cloud”
“It’s like holding a cloud,” Carol Adams ( opens in a new window@caroladams1) of Raleigh, N.C., told me when I asked what it was like holding the small brick of aerogel.
Aerogel is a silicon-based solid and 99.8 percent of the volume is empty space, making it the lightest known porous solid on Earth. NASA uses it to collect comet dust and produced aerogel for the Mars Pathfinder and Stardust missions (Source: opens in a new windowNASA). It’s strong and light. Yeah, cool stuff.
After we learned the Endeavour launch had been scrubbed on Friday, Stephanie Smith (@ opens in a new windowStephist) from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., brought out three containers each with a block of aerogel and allowed NASA Tweetup participants to handle the galactic block. She was quickly surrounded by anxious Tweeters anxious to hold the connection to space.
Participants needed to delicately handle the aerogel and for some reason, I was hesitant to hold it. I suppose it was my fear of my clumsiness and could imagine dropping it during the hand off because I’m not coordinated enough. I did touch it and it felt like a light grain plastic sandpaper. The three blocks of aerogel were given away to three lucky Twitterers.
If you held aerogel, how would you describe it?
If the video doesn’t play above, visit opens in a new windowthis link for a quick video of NASA Tweetup participants holding aerogel.