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The Wait is Over: Space Station Project Returns
12.05.05
A group of Ohio researchers and students recently received an important package they've been anxiously awaiting for more than four years.

On Nov. 14, members of the Electro-Physics Branch at the NASA Glenn Research Center and students from Hathaway Brown School opened the Polymer Erosion and Contamination Experiment (PEACE).

Photo: Researchers/students in clean roomImage left: Researchers Kim de Groh and Bruce Banks are assisted by students Lauren Berger and Rochelle Rucker as they open the polymer samples in a clean room at NASA's Glenn Research Center. Credit: NASA/Doreen Zudell (SGT, Inc.)

Part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), PEACE was attached to the outside of the International Space Station after launching aboard STS-105 in August 2001. NASA planned to return the experiment in 2003. But after the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew, launches were delayed while NASA made safety improvements to the space shuttle.

Now that the polymer samples are back, Glenn researchers will analyze them to determine how well they withstood the harsh environment of space. So far, PEACE principal investigator Kim de Groh is happy with what she's seen.

"The samples look very interesting," she said. "Some are really degraded, and some appear very pristine. So we have a wide range of results to analyze."

Photo: Post-flight polymer samplesImage right: PEACE samples after four years of exposure. Credit: NASA/Glenn Electro-Physics Branch

In 2001, four Hathaway Brown high school students helped de Groh prepare the samples for flight. Those students have since graduated and passed the torch to a younger team. Catherine McCarthy, Rochelle Rucker, Lily Roberts and Lauren Berger will assist de Groh and co-investigator Bruce Banks by conducting numerous analyses of the samples.

Polymers are long-chain molecular materials often used for spacecraft applications because of their light weight and flexibility. The polymers that held up the best in low-Earth orbit could be used to build future satellites and space stations.

Learn More:
+ High School Students Team with NASA on Space Experiments
+ Luggage, Space Shuttle Style
+ Opening the Door to New Materials for Exploration

Jan Wittry (SGT, Inc.)
NASA's Glenn Research Center