I recently read that temperatures on the moon can vary from -100 °C in the shade to 100 °C in the sunny part.

How did astronaut suits cope with these extreme temperatures? Is the same technology used in other fields today?


So, the surface temperature can even vary a bit more:

Surface temp.   min     mean    max
Equator         100 K   250 K   390 K
85°N                    150 K   230 K


But that problem is not as big as it looks like. The Moon can be considered to be surrounded by vaccum . This means:

  1. The listed temperatures are SURFACE temperatures, not the "environments" temperature.
  2. Object cannot lose thermal energy by convection, but quasi only by radiation.

Space Suits or space ships/capsules are (nearly) always white (maybe not always "clean white") or metalic (silver, golden). This colour is chosen, so minimum thermal energy is absorbed, but also minimum is radiated.

So, there is a situation, where heated objects can keep thermal energy quite good. Additionally, Apollo Mission only landed on the sunny part of the moon. There was no Apollo landing in a "lunar night". So the surface temperatures had been quite stable.

This all is reducing the problem to situations, where an astronaut grabs for something or stands on the moon surface. In this case, there is physical contact between the hot surface and the space suit.

So building a lunar space suit it is important to use materials capable of handing this temperatures and isolating it enough so the person inside do not get hurt: E.g.: Nylon, Kapton or Teflon

(Beside the suits and S/C have thermal regulation ("AC") to cope with thermal energy from inside, but that would be another question)

Is the same technology used in other fields today?

Yes, I call it oven gloves and use it while getting my pizza ;-)

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ also relevant that the near sunrise time of apollo means the temperatures were closer to the mean space.stackexchange.com/questions/37366/… $\endgroup$ Nov 4 '20 at 9:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thank you both. I'll keep using my space exploration gloves to bake potatoes. ;) $\endgroup$
    – raulmd13
    Nov 4 '20 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ @GremlinWranger Also relevant is that the short stays on the Moon (3-plus days for Apollo 17) meant the Apollo astronauts didn't experience the very high surface temperatures that can occur on the surface of the Moon. $\endgroup$ Nov 4 '20 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ you missed info for max at 85°N $\endgroup$
    – inemanja
    Nov 4 '20 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ For those who may have missed it, the temperatures give above are in kelvins. One should subtract 273.15 from those values to get the equivalent in degrees Celsius, so the values quoted are the same as -173.15°C, -23.15°C, 116.85°C / -123.15°C, -43.15°C. $\endgroup$
    – jcaron
    Nov 5 '20 at 0:16

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