Gold is a precious metal not only because it is rare and beautiful, but also because it is very useful for a wide variety of uses. Its reflectivity, malleability, ductility and ability to resist corrosion are all properties so useful to the space program that modern space exploration would be impossible without this unique element.
Gold is resistant to corrosion
Gold is one of the most inert (non-reactive) metals. It does not corrode or break down like many other metals do. Since space is an extremely harsh environment, in which even a small problem can lead to a major disaster, objects made of gold or covered with gold are protected from corrosion and therefore have a much better chance of working as they should. .
Gold is a stable lubricant
Moving parts in machines need lubricants to reduce friction in many environments of a spacecraft. In the harsh conditions of space, most of the lubricants used on Earth would be broken down by the bombardment of radioactive particles. Because of its physical characteristics, gold molecules can easily slide past each other in high-friction environments, and because they are unaffected by radiation, gold is often the lubricant of choice on a spacecraft.
Gold can reflect heat
Today, many modern buildings use a thin layer of gold in their windows to protect the interior from overheating. In fact, it is the material of choice for all applications where solar reflection is highly desirable. It’s gold’s ability to reflect heat, helping to prevent the harmful heat from engines, thrusters or the sun from harming astronauts or the equipment used on a spacecraft.
Gold can reflect visible light
Gold can reflect not only heat (infrared light), but also the visible light spectrum. The face shields on the astronauts’ helmets contain a thin layer of gold that helps to reduce glare and protect their eyes from harmful radiation.
Gold is the most malleable and malleable of all metals
Gold’s ductility and malleability, its ability to be drawn into thin wires without breaking and to be stamped into thin sheets without breaking, allows aerospace engineers to mold gold into almost any shape and make it thin enough to keep the weight of the equipment low.
Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity
In a spaceship, almost everything is computerized, and within those computers hundreds of thousands of electronic components are combined on circuit boards coated with gold. A small connection path on a circuit can burn if it is made with common metals, but it is gold that gives it the ability to withstand heat and provide optimal current paths for the electrical current. All connectors connecting all computers and communication equipment aboard spaceships are gold plated for optimal interfacing at all times and ensure positive contact.