New Zealand wool takes off on NASA lunar mission

A New Zealand wool product will make its way into space later this month, as part of NASA’s mission to the Moon.

An Orion spacecraft will launch on an unmanned test flight Aug. 30 ahead of planned manned missions.

On board for the journey there will be filters from the Kiwi Lanaco company made from New Zealand sheep’s wool.

READ MORE: NASA’s SOFIA telescope plane leaves Christchurch for the last time

Lanaco founder Nick Davenport said it was the same technology found in the company’s personal protective equipment, face masks and home air purifiers.

“It’s a tiny piece of wool technology that protects the astronauts in the event of a fire on board the capsule,” he said.

The Orion spacecraft will take European Space Agency mascot Shaun the Sheep with it. ESA built the service module for the spacecraft. The Orion spacecraft will take ESA mascot Shaun the Sheep with it. Photo: European Space Agency

“It’s part of their essential life support system. This technology dramatically increases the window of opportunity for survival, so it’s a really, really important part of the program, but a tiny bit of wool is key.”

The company was approached by NASA in 2017 and sent samples the following year.

“We made prototypes using our existing hardware, so we made finished prototypes which they then adopted,” Davenport said.

“Basically it’s the exact same product that’s used in the face masks that we use for ordinary people in New Zealand.”

Eighteen months later, their filter was chosen among all the international competitors.

Nick Davenport said it showed that investing in the science of wool can produce more than just socks.

The company is currently exploring medical and automotive uses for its wool, to protect people in cars and hospitals.

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