Shuttle Columbia science mission to dedicate 16 days to scie

by Marshall Space Flight Center

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Where can you study earthquakes, grow plants, test fire-fighting systems, perform a battery of medical exams, reduce the cost of gasoline, learn how to make better medicines and test technology that will recycle water and enable humans to explore Mars? On the Space Shuttle Columbia, of course. Astronauts will carry out an around-the-clock research agenda, completing more than 80 experiments during the 16-day STS-107 mission to be launched later this year. Several of the experiments are managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala

The majority of the research will be conducted in the Shuttle's middeck, the area directly under the cockpit, and in the new SPACEHAB research double module. This is the first flight for that module, which doubles the volume available for experiments and significantly increases the amount and complexity of research from the last dedicated Shuttle science mission -- STS-95, flown in 1998 with a single SPACEHAB module. The pressurized module will be carried in Columbia's payload bay and be accessible to the crew via a tunnel from the Shuttle's middeck.

To perform the research, the crew will be split into two teams to allow around-the-clock operations during the flight. The Red Team will consist of Commander Rick Husband and Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. Pilot William McCool and Mission Specialists David Brown and Michael Anderson will be on the Blue Team.

Mechanics of Granular Materials (MGM): Scientists to get 'dirt' on how earthquakes shake up soil during experiment on Shuttle mission

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake made this apartment building in San Francisco's Marina District sink, putting the third story at ground level. The earthquake caused the soil foundation under the building to shift and flow like water - a process called soil liquefaction. When the Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off, it will carry the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment, which studies soil behavior that results in liquefaction. Results from this research can lead to improved foundations for buildings, management of undeveloped land, and handling of powder or granular materials used in chemical, agricultural and other industries. The project is managed by the Microgravity Science and Applications Department at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (J.K. Nakata, U.S. Geological Survey)

These aren't really boulders, but tiny grains of sand photographed under an electron microscope. Similar sand will be used for civil engineering tests inside the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment to be conducted during the STS-107 Space Shuttle mission. The craggy surfaces stick and form small voids between grains, causing soil or powders to behave like liquid under certain conditions, such as earthquakes or when powders are handled in industrial processes. The principal investigator for the experiment is Dr. Stein Sture of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the experiment is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA)

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When the Space Shuttle Columbia returns soil specimens for the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment to Earth, scientists will use computer tomography to make images. This scan, made after a similar experiment on a prior Shuttle flight, revealed internal features and patterns not seen in samples tested on the ground. The principal investigator for the experiment is Dr. Stein Sture of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the experiment is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA/MSFC)

Astronaut Carl Waltz installs the Mechanics of Granular Materials test cell during Space Shuttle mission STS-79 in 1996. These investigations, along with studies from the STS-89 flight in 1998, revealed that soil specimens were two-to-three times stronger and much stiffer than scientists had predicted. The 16-day STS-107 flight on Space Shuttle Columbia gives scientist an opportunity to perform longer, more complex experiments. The project is managed by NASA's Microgravity Science and Applications Department at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA)

A test cell for the Mechanics of Granular Materials experiment is shown approximately 20 minutes, left, and 60 minutes, right, after the start of an experiment run. Three sand columns held inside latex sleeves will be used for nine experiment runs on the STS-107 mission scheduled on Space Shuttle Columbia. As the test cell is compressed and relaxed, a load cell measures the applied force, and cameras record changes in shape and position of the soil inside the column. Compression and relaxation simulates the loads that might be imparted to soil via earthquakes or other external forces. (NASA/MSFC)


Water Mist experiment: Astronauts to test new mist fire-fighting system

Fire fighters on Earth may benefit from a new water mist fire system being tested by two companies during the STS-107 mission on Space Shuttle Columbia. The device uses a humidifier-like device to produce a fine mist that puts out blazes without using harmful chemicals or large quantities of water that can damage property. The companies are working with The Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden - a NASA Commercial Space Center managed by the Space Product Development Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA)

Companies are testing a new fire-fighting system on the Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-107 mission. The tests in space will reveal data that is impossible to obtain on Earth because gravity distorts the combustion process. On Earth, gravity causes convection making flames to rise in a cone shape, left. In microgravity, convection has no effect. As a result, the candle flame, right, becomes a dome shape. This commercial experiment is managed by NASA's Space Product Development Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA)

This panel of images taken during a brief low-gravity test shows a frame after ignition, left, encountering water mist, center, and slowing down and breaking up, right. Similar imagery will be obtained during the upcoming STS-107 flight of the water mist fire-fighting system on the Space Shuttle Columbia. The experiment will help companies designing commercial water mists systems determine the optimum water concentration and water droplet size needed to put out fires. This commercial experiment is managed by NASA's Space Product Development Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA)

During the STS-94 Space Shuttle mission in 1997, astronaut Janice Voss performs combustion experiments in the safety of the Combustion Module, CM-1. A follow-on combustion module - CM-2 - will allow experiments with fire to be safely conducted during the STS-107 mission. One of those experiments will test a fire-fighting system that uses mists to put out fire. This commercial experiment is managed by NASA's Space Product Development Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA)

The water mist fire-fighting system will be tested inside the safety of the Combustion Module - a NASA facility flown on a previous Shuttle flight. The Combustion Module was developed at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. During training, Glenn scientists show the STS-107 Space Shuttle crew how to operate the experiment inside the Combustion module. Two companies are conducting the water mist experiment through The Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden -- one of many NASA Commercial Space Centers managed by the Space Product Development Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (NASA/GRC)