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Researchers Assess Status of STS-107 Scientific Data
 

The launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia on January 16, 2003 represented an exciting time for the international research community. Columbia carried more than 80 experiments on a 16-day mission devoted entirely to science.

NASA and its researchers are working to determine exactly how much data was lost with the Columbia crew. Some scientific data from Columbia was downlinked to experimental teams on Earth during the mission.

The payload data were impounded by investigators looking into Saturday's accident, so it will take some time to evaluate the results. Already, researchers are pointing to several achievements by the Columbia astronauts, and by the scientists on the ground who supported them. These include:

  • Shuttle astronauts created and observed the weakest flames ever created. High-quality image data from the SOFBALL (Structure of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-Number) experiment exists and, according to the project's Principal Investigator, can help scientists develop models of combustion chemistry for cleaner-burning engines.
  • The Laminar Soot Processes experiment also saw flame phenomena never before created on or off Earth. Soot is both a significant hazard to health and engine performance on Earth, and under controlled circumstances, a useful industrial product.
  • The MIST (Water Mist Fire Suppression) experiment, which was designed to investigate the use of fine water mists in firefighting, achieved a qualitative understanding for different water concentrations.
  • The Israeli Mediterranean Dust Experiment, or MEIDEX, studied the effects of desert dust and smoke plumes on the climate and obtained important still images and video to be studied in the future. The MEIDEX experiment also resulted in the first calibrated images of an atmospheric phenomenon known as an "elf," or an electrical halo that glows over the tops of storm clouds.
  • A life sciences experiment on prostate cancer aboard Columbia documented greater-than-expected growth of tumor aggregates in space.

However, most of the other experiments on STS-107, such as those in Life Sciences, relied heavily on specimens, samples, and other data that were lost with Columbia.

NASA remains committed to the pursuit of science in space, knowing that the unique environment offers something never before achievable in the history of humankind: a glimpse of what our life -- what nature itself -might be like in a world with a different level of gravity.

"All seven Columbia astronauts sought to advance human exploration of space," said Mary Kicza, Associate Administrator for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research. "They dedicated their lives to NASA and their countries, and helped us uncover knowledge that could help improve the lives of all people."

More information on the research performed by the Columbia crew is available on the internet at:
http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov