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For Release: Sept. 22, 1997

Ann Gaudreaux
(757) 864-8150

Release No. 97-114

Retrieval During Next Shuttle Mission (STS-86)

NASA RESEARCHERS EAGERLY AWAIT RETURN OF MIR EXPERIMENT

The experiment they designed has quietly gathered data for 18 months. Now, researchers at NASA Langley are eagerly awaiting the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis this Thursday. Four days after docking with Mir, two Atlantis astronauts will retrieve Langley's Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP) from the Russian space station and return it to Earth.

"The science investigators are very excited about the retrieval and are anxious to begin the analysis of the MEEP experiment. The 18 months of exposure on Mir has provided the type of environment to help determine the effects activities around an operational station can have on materials, and to help give a greater understanding of the type and frequency of orbital debris that impacts a station," said Greg Stover, a Langley researcher and the MEEP project manager.

MEEP was attached to the outside of the Russian space station in March 1996 to study the long-term effects of the space environment on selected and proposed International Space Station materials, and to study the effects of impacts from space debris. MEEP, made up of four separate experiments, was designed to determine the frequency and effects of both human-made and natural space debris that strike the station, and determine the reactions of materials in the space environment.

Because the International Space Station will be placed in approximately the same Earth orbit as Mir, flying MEEP aboard Mir gave researchers an opportunity for long-term testing of materials for the new station in a comparable orbital position.

Once back on Earth, the four MEEP experiments will be studied to determine what kind of debris hit the space station, and how contaminants collected on some of the different surfaces affect the long term performance of some materials. After the data from all four MEEP experiments is analyzed, the data will be placed into an electronic archive that will be accessible via the Internet.

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