Microgravity Science Laboratory activities aboard Columbia are winding down this evening with the last experiment scheduled to end in the German electromagnetic leviatation furnace at about 7:30 p.m. CDT. Final deactivation of the Spacelab module is planned for 9:20 p.m. tonight.
After two days of intensive research, most of the Spacelab experiments were deactivated by 10 a.m. CDT today, to allow enough power to run two final experiments. One was the Liquid-Phase Sintering experiment and the other was the Thermophysical Properties of Undercooled Metallic Melts experiment.
This evening, Mission Specialist Dr. Don Thomas concluded the third segment of the Liquid-Phase Sintering experiment in the Large Isothermal Furnace. Using heat and pressure, this investigation tests theories on how the liquefied component bonds with the solid particles of a mixture without reaching the melting point of the new alloy combination. This cannot be studied effectively on Earth because gravity segregates the solid particles, reducing the desirable traits such as strength and corrosion resistance. The Large Isothermal Furnace was deactivated after processing the last cartridge and allowing it to cool and solidify between 3 and 4 p.m.
Closing out the science mission, Thomas is finishing observations in the German electromagnetic levitation furnace facility called TEMPUS. Working with palladium-copper-silicon and cobalt-palladium samples, Thomas is conducting the Thermophysical Properties of Undercooled Metallic Melts experiment. This experiment studies the amount of undercooling that can be achieved before solidification occurs. The process of undercooling involves reducing the temperature of a liquid below its normal freezing point. This process may have many benefits to industry.
Though the mission didn’t achieve all its science goals due to the orbiter’s fuel cell problems, there were several significant accomplishments -- two in the area of combustion reasearch.
Yesterday, combustion scientist Dr. Gerard Faeth from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor described results from his Laminar Soot Processes experiment as a “homerun.” He stated that scientists had gotten their first glimpse of the concentration and structure of soot from a fire burning in microgravity and that the data gained will probably rewrite the textbooks of the future.”
Last night, the Stucture Of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number experiment made two notable runs that Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Ronney of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles described as “successful beyond my wildest dreams.” The study is designed to determine under what conditions a stable flame ball can exist and if heat loss is responsible in some way for the stabilization of the flame ball during burning.
In a final science briefing this afternoon, Joel Kearns, manager of NASA’s Microgravity Research Program Office at the Marshall Center summarized the abbreviated mission. “The past few days since launch have allowed the first Microgravity Science Laboratory team to get a good look at our destination, to verify that we are headed in the right direction. But, we were not able to reach our destination because of the shortened mission,” he said.
“We did test our our new state of the art scientific research apparatus and it functioned extraordinarily. Our scientific and commercial research teams were able to acquire their first glimpses of some phenomena never seen before in long duration microgravity. And, we were able to confirm the performance of the Express Rack which will be our host for all initial research experiments on the International Space Station,” said Kearns of the mission’s accomplishments.
Looking beyond tomorrow’s scheduled landing of Columbia, Kearns said: “Yesterday I took the step after the decision was made to shorten this Space Shuttle mission, to request a reflight of this MSL-1 mission in the future.”
This is the last scheduled Marshall Space Flight Center Public Affairs Status Report for the Microgravity Science Laboratory 1 mission.
For more information call Spacelab Newscenter at Marshall Space Flight Center at (205) 544-6535 or visit our web sites. For Spacelab payload information: http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/spacelab/msl/main.html and for microgravity science information: http://www.ssl.msfc.nasa.gov/msl1/ msl1hframe.htm
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