Sunday, November 4, 2012

Really, REALLY different sewing

One of the wonderful perks of living near Washington, DC, is that we can be members of the Smithsonian Institution, which gets us invited to neat events at their museums. Last Thursday, we went to the Udvar-Hazy Center, the annex of the Air & Space Museum, for a reception honoring the installation of the space shuttle Discovery.

The shuttle really looks magnificent... and so big!! You can walk under the wings and tail and get a fantastic look at the details. We also got to hear a presentation by Valerie Neal, curator of the shuttle display. She was an amazing resource and told great stories about what it took to get Discovery to the museum. Then she took a few questions, and one of them was regarding the white material that covers the sides and top of the shuttle.

The first time we saw Discovery close up, we joked that it looked like it was covered in papier mache, like a kid's science project gone supersized. But when Neal explained what the material was, I darned near fell off my chair.


Yes, high-tech quilts, but for all intents and purposes, the shuttle is covered in blocks of quilted material. The fabric was spun out of silica, and the batts were quilted with quartz thread! I'd never heard of such a thing, so I looked it up when I got home and found this document from the NASA archives, going back to the early 1980s:

(Click on the picture to open the PDF document)

Who knew that quilting played an important role in the space shuttle program?


  1. How very cool! I would have given quilting a go if I knew I could work on the space shuttle.


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