ONE GIANT STEP: When Intuitive Machines sends the Nova-C lunar lander to the surface of the moon next year, Columbia Sportswear will have a presence, too.
As the scientific partner with the private company Intuitive Machines, Columbia Sportswear is providing the Columbia Omni-Heat Infinity thermal-reflective technology to help shield the spacecraft from the frigid temperatures of space. The much-anticipated liftoff has been a long time coming. It was in December 1972, that 11 astronauts suited up and boarded Apollo 17 for what was now humankind’s most recent steps on the moon.
Fast-forward nearly five decades and the upcoming IM-1 mission is part of NASA’s Artemis Program lunar exploration efforts. The aim is to help pave the way for a sustainable presence on the moon. The team aloft and on the ground will also be looking to gain a better understanding of the solar system. The launch was planned for the fourth quarter of this year, but in April Intuitive Machines pushed that back to next year.
Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next year and will carry commercial payloads. This a long-term effort to gather information on the lunar surface ahead of returning humans to the moon under the space agency’s Artemis Program.
The TO2-IM, or Intuitive Machines 1 (IM-1) mission objective is to place a lander, called Nova–C, in the Vallis Schroteri region on the moon.
In need of sponsors, Intuitive Machines had reached out to Columbia, according to a spokesperson for the Portland, Oregon-based brand.
Common goals in thermal protection and materials were immediately recognized and a partnership was born. Columbia and IM materials experts discussed a variety of options for incorporating Columbia Sportswear’s latest heat-reflective technology, Omni-Heat Infinity, into the Nova-C lander.
Fittingly, the brand’s Omni-Heat Infinity thermal-reflective technology was inspired by NASA space blankets. Many consumers already know of it, since it is used in 100-plus styles of outerwear, footwear and other Columbia products on its site and in stores. It incorporates metallic gold-colored dots that reflect the wearer’s body heat and generate warmth without affecting the garment’s breathability.
In the testing phase, thermal modeling by IM showed that Omni-Heat Infinity’s heat reflection was beneficial when used as a panel covering, according to Columbia. That is how the technology will be used on the Nova-C. With temperatures in space potentially ranging from minus-250 F to over 250 F, the Omni-Heat Infinity panel is expected to be durable enough to withstand such extreme temperatures.
Columbia Sportswear’s involvement is unprecedented as an opportunity for exploration and discovery — never mind upping the company’s efforts to advance technologies and innovative materials that can be used for consumer products.