Science: Bubbles for Space

Ideas for gizmos to put in satellites are as common as scientists' notebooks, and they range from TV cameras to dogs and chimpanzees. William J. O'Sullivan Jr. of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics favors satellites that can do useful jobs with no instruments at all.

One of his satellites, which he prefers to call a sub-satellite, is so light that it can be carried almost as an afterthought by any orbit-bound rocket. It is a balloon of plastic film .00025 in. thick, bonded to aluminum foil .0005 in. thick and packed in a doughnut-shaped container. To inflate the balloon, O'Sullivan provides...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!