This crack in the window of the International Space Station was thought to have been caused when a tiny fleck of paint hit it.

I looked up the dictionary and I'm not sure if "paint" here means something else.

Is it literal paint? liquid?

1 Answer 1


It is the same paint you're familiar with: "A coloured substance which is spread over a surface and dries to leave a thin decorative or protective coating." (Oxford Dictionary)

When you apply paint, it goes on as a liquid. Once it dries, it becomes a solid coating/covering.

So, when paint begins to come off of a surface, it does so in small, solid chunks, which are called "flecks".

flecks of blue paint
(Flecks Of Paint, Essaouira, by Antony Stanley from Gloucester, UK, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

One of these flecks of paint—a tiny piece of debris—hit the spacecraft with such rapid velocity that it caused more damage than one would naïvely expect from its small size.

In 1983, during the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, a tiny fleck of paint hit the windshield with such a velocity (> 20,000 km/hr) that it created a pit (indentation).

  • Not all paint is solid... even when dry...
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 24, 2019 at 17:08
  • 1
    All paint becomes solid. Paints consist of pigment, a hardening agent that becomes solid and often a medium that evaporates. When paint dries the hardening agent bonds it into a solid film. If it doesn't become solid its not a "paint" it may be a dye or a colourant of some kind.
    – James K
    Feb 24, 2019 at 21:51

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