Friday, September 22, 2006

I don't know if this is true, but...

In the early 1960's, NASA was sending electronic gear into outer space on unmanned missions. They'd already sent somebody into space, but they wanted to make sure that if they were going to send people up for longer flights, that they had a chance of surviving. They were sending electronic gear up to test a variety of things like radiation exposure, and so on.

The equipment kept failing, but they couldn't figure out why.

Finally, someone determined that the circuits were overheating, so they installed a fan to cool off the devices.

However, the problems persisted. Why?


  1. Because there is a lack of air in space.

  2. This makes me wonder a bunch of things.

    1. Is an engineer actually dumb enough to use a fan in a vacuum?

    2. What is heat transfer in a vacuum like? If some piece of electronics is generating a bunch of heat, can it effect other pieces of electronic in the area? Or does the heat only conduct through the local solids (i.e. circuits themselves etc)

  3. andy,

    1. Yes.

    2. Much of the heat energy may be radiated through infrared which can discipate in space. Also, space is not a true vaccum. There is some material that can remove thermal energy from an object.

  4. I was beat, and now it seems as if I am riding the wave of answers before me. But because there is no air in space to cool down the gear.

  5. On those early, unmanned flights they didn't pressurize the cabins. Since there is no air in outer space, and if there is no air to blow around, a fan has no effect. In fact, all it does is add heat.

    Does anyone know if this is a true story?

  6. This is a ludicrous myth. And "Mr. Don" apparently hates engineers. Humankind proposed that space was a vacuum at least as early as 1650. There were numerous successful unmanned satellites after Sputnik flew in 1957.


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