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01 July 2016


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Didn't the Chinese use Oak as a heat shield for re-entry on their early manned spacecraft?

Cheaper and perhaps even better than the tiles we used on the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia that incinerated over Texas a dozen years back.


As TTG noted, there's lot's of woods with specific properties for boatbuilding, somewhere around 100,

But all woods have their unique properties and unique applications.

There are encyclopedia's written about wood types, properties and applications.

Old growth is "best" for dense forest type woods, but for other woods, that tend to grow in open meadow area's, just the size and age of the tree matters.

The Twisted Genius


Mike's comment about Chinese oak heat shields took me by surprise... and it answers your question in the affirmative.

"The Chinese have been a whiz with rockets for thousands of years. Now they are successfully launching, and recovering, wooden spaceships. To be precise, only the heat shield in the nose cone of the rocket is made from wood. But it’s the part that is exposed to temperatures of some 1500 °C, so hot that most known metals get soft and begin to flow."

"On re-entry, the friction between the atmosphere and the skin of the spaceship could melt the whole thing into an expensive blob unless a heat-resistant material is used. On the space shuttle, for example, the Americans have settled for a ceramic made of silica."

"The Chinese, however, have used a 15-centimetre heat shield made of oak. On re-entry into the atmosphere, air friction causes the wood to burn and the nose cone chars into charcoal. As the craft descends, the outer layer of this charcoal is stripped off by the wind, molecule by molecule. At the same time, the new outer layer of wood turns into charcoal. So the nose cone is always coated with charcoal, even though its total thickness is decreasing. Very little heat gets through to the metal underneath because charcoal and wood are great insulators."


Bill Herschel

Grey Seas Under is one of my favorite books. Haven't read much more of Mowat than that.


The Boat who Wouldn't Float is a marine classic,

And No Birds Sang is his autobiographic of The Italian Campaign of WWII with the Hasty Pee's.

John Minnerath

Farley Mowat lived to the great old age of 92.
He was a prolific writer, many of his works considered classics.

Babak Makkinejad

Neat,, thanks.

If one could grow this skin in situ, then the ships will always have a new fresh skin after each re-entry.

I wonder with the application of CRISPR techniques, the days of living space ships are not too distant.


Way off topic: Where did you grow up? I expect you've mentioned it somewhere along the way but I missed it. I ask because you frequently mention things and "ways" that are well known to me (ironwoods, sassafras tea, old barns and houses, familiarity with the flora and fauna of woods and fields, and much more). I am supposing New England? One of my favorite, half-baked opinions is that New Englanders and Southerners share a bone, blood, heart, and soul attachment to their land.

The Twisted Genius


Yes, I grew up as a New Englander in a small, rural Connecticut town. Being close to the land was rather natural when I was growing up. Farming was still pretty big at the time. I learned all manner of farm skills on a neighbor's dairy farm. My first paying job, besides delivering the New Haven Register as a paperboy, was on the Roaring Brook Poultry Farm. I made the princely sum of $1.50 an hour, cash from the weathered hand of Mr. Schweitzer to mine with all those Rhode Island Reds as witnesses to the transaction. Our grammar school incorporated all manner of nature activities and crafts into our education. Now I'm trying to become a proper Virginian without losing the New England within me.

As far as your theory goes, you're probably onto something. Rural people everywhere share a kinship with nature and their land no matter how different that land may be.

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