Aluminium has long sparked the imagination of humankind’s quest to explore the space beyond Earth. In fact, Jules Gabriel Verne, the renowned French novelist credited with stories like ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, wrote of man setting sail to the moon in an aluminium spaceship.
The Wright brothers’ ‘Flyer I’, the first steerable flying apparatus flew with a strong but lightweight 13HP engine whose components were made of aluminium. They chose aluminium for the cylinder block and other engine parts on their first manned flight in 1903. It was also the first time an aluminium alloy had been heat-strengthened, a discovery that positioned aluminium’s dominance in aerospace engineering. As far back as the 19th century, Count Ferdinand Zeppelin used it to make the frames of his iconic airships, demonstrating aluminium’s light weight, strength, and high resistance to corrosion. More than a century later, it is the most-used metal in the air.
Throughout the years, with evolution in the aviation and aerospace industries, the demand for high-performance materials has become more exacting. The advancement of aircraft and rocket technology is directly tied to the advancement and production of aluminium alloys. The first component of the International Space Station was launched in 1998, and today the ISS is a stellar example of our capability to test the limits of human genius. From Flyer I to ISS, aluminium has indeed given wings to humankind’s aspirations to explore the undiscovered.