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Press Release 96-25

Lori J. Rachul
NASA Lewis Research Center


CLEVELAND, OH -- NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid will conduct an array of U.S. and Russian experiments, including four NASA Lewis - developed combustion and fluid physics experiments, on board the Russian Space Station Mir beginning May 24.

Lucid, who has been on board Mir since March 24, 1996, will perform the experiments over a three month period. Lucid and the experiments will return to Earth as part of the fourth Space Shuttle Atlantis/Mir docking mission scheduled for August 1996.

NASA Lewis engineers and technicians designed, built and tested four experiments that Lucid will perform in conjunction with the Microgravity Glovebox Facility (MGBX) and the Canadian Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM) in the Priroda Module. The Priroda module--in which the four NASA Lewis experiments, the MGBX and the MIM were stowed--was launched atop a Russian Proton rocket on April 23. Three days later, the unmanned Priroda module successfully docked to Mir to serve as a permanent science laboratory.

"It's exciting for NASA Lewis to be a part Shannon Lucid's historic stay on board Mir," said David Frate, Space Experiments Division. "Having our experiments on Mir also provides a longer duration to gather data than is available on the shuttle."

The NASA Lewis experiments, which investigate combustion and the behavior of fluids in microgravity, will help researchers better understand basic scientific principles that drive combustion and fluids processes.

The Candle Flames in Microgravity Experiment (CFM) will provide new insight into the combustion process. By studying the behavior of candle flames in a non-convecting, purely diffusive environment using the MGBX, researchers will be able to determine if and how long flames can be sustained in microgravity.

The Forced Flow Flamespreading Test (FFFT) will examine flame spreading over solid fuels in low-speed flows using the MGBX. Tests related to the experiment, which were flown on two previous shuttle missions, demonstrated that very low-speed airflows can dramatically increase the flammability of materials in microgravity. On board Mir, Lucid will document the effect of varying fuel thicknesses and flow velocity on flames spreading in a miniature, low-speed wind tunnel.

The Interface Configuration Experiment (ICE), which will be conducted using the MGBX, will help scientists confirm existing theories about the general shape and/or location of fluid surfaces in containers in space. Specifically, ICE will explore a striking behavior of liquid-vapor interfaces that has been predicted mathematically for certain irregularly shaped "exotic" containers in a low-gravity environment. By demonstrating the ability to mathematically predict the shape and location of liquids in exotic containers, researchers hope to build confidence in the ability to predict fluid configurations in containers of all shapes.

The Technical Evaluation of the MIM Experiment (TEM) will test various capabilities of the Canadian Space Agency's Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM). The MIM is designed to isolate an experiment from the effects of residual accelerations on board Mir. If successful, the MIM could help to ensure the integrity of data derived from fluid physics experiments. Through observations of liquid surface oscillations, the TEM experiment will evaluate the ability of the MIM to isolate and impart controlled motions on an experiment.

In preparation for her stay on board Mir, Lucid lived in Russia for over a year to train on the microgravity experiments, and learn the operation of Mir. In September 1995 and January-February 1996, members of NASA Lewis' Space Experiments Division traveled to Russia to perform acceptance testing of the flight hardware; negotiate the hardware documentation and develop crew procedures with the Russians; and train Lucid on the operation of the NASA Lewis experiments.

"This level of cooperation with the Russians is unique in that we built and tested the hardware and then handed it over to them for integration into their launch vehicle. The knowledge that we gain from this experience of working with an international partner will be critical to the success of the International Space Station Alpha," Frate said.

Note: Additional information regarding the NASA Lewis experiments on board Mir can be found on the Internet:

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