For release: 09-18-02 (for week ending 09-18-02)
Science Ops status report #: 02-232
Bad bubbles experiment begins in Space Station glovebox
Operations with the second Microgravity Science Glovebox research project have begun aboard the International Space Station, studying unwanted bubbles that can become trapped in metal alloys used to produce jet engine turbine blades and semiconductor crystals for electronic devices. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center.
Photo: NASA scientist examines sample for Space Station experiment. (NASA/MSFC)
The second Microgravity Science Glovebox research project is scheduled to begin Thursday aboard the International Space Station, studying bubbles that can become trapped in metal alloys used to produce engine turbine blades and semiconductor crystals for electronic devices.
The Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation (PFMI) will melt samples of a transparent modeling material, succinonitrile and succinonitrile water mixtures. Investigators will be able to observe how bubbles form in the samples and study their movements and interactions.
“Bubbles sound simple,” said Dr. Richard Grugel, PFMI lead scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Al. “But when bubbles are trapped in solid samples, they can act as internal cracks that diminish a material’s strength and usefulness, whether it’s processed on Earth or in space.”
Bubbles are more likely to get trapped in samples processed in microgravity, which makes the Space Station a good place to study their movements and interactions. Information collected from PFMI is expected to provide insights into the processing of metals and alloys in space and on Earth.
Observing and controlling his Space Station experiment from the telescience operations room at the Marshall Center, Grugel will observe bubbles in prepared samples and study their behavior. He will be able to send commands to the experiment in space, changing the processing temperature and other parameters to systematically investigate the conditions that stimulate bubble movement and eventual pore formation.
The crew installed the PFMI furnace chamber in the Glovebox last week. On Tuesday, controllers and the science team on the ground conducted a non-sample checkout run with PFMI to verify procedures, commands, video and data connections. During the first sample run Thursday, one of two video cameras will send back images to the ground of the samples as they melt and resolidify. PFMI includes 15 samples. Each sample tube is 0.39 inches (1 centimeter) in diameter and 7.87 inches (20 centimeters) long. Watching from the ground during the seven-hour melting and freezing cycle, Grugel will be able to send commands to the experiment, changing temperatures, growth rate and other variables that affect sample processing. He will also be able to measure bubble size, numbers, movement and other interactions.
The research is sponsored by NASA’s Microgravity Research Program at the Marshall Center and by the Office of Biological and Physical Research in Washington, D.C.
The first Glovebox research program was completed last week. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson completed the Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA). A total of eight samples processed during the research program are stored for return to Earth.
Friday (Sept. 13) marked the first-ever on-orbit practice use of the lab’s Ultrasound imaging equipment for medical diagnosis. With guidance from flight surgeons at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Whitson used it on herself to capture live video images for more than four hours. The ability to capture and downlink Ultrasound imagery from orbit expands the kinds of medical research that can be conducted in space by scientists on Earth, and could offer physicians the chance to diagnose ailments in Space Station crewmembers earlier than they could otherwise. This possibly could improve the chances of effectively treating the problem without requiring an emergency crew return to Earth. Ultrasound is a generic commercially-produced diagnostic tool that provides three-dimensional image enlargement of the heart, lungs and other organs, muscles and blood
On Monday (Sept. 16), the crew removed fluid from the Advanced Astroculture plant growth experiment and a second fluid removal is scheduled for Friday. Both of these activities are part of the plant preservation and drying process prior to completing the experiment and preparing plant samples for return to Earth.
On Tuesday (Sept. 17), ground controllers conducted several tests to calibrate the Active Rack Isolation System in EXPRESS Rack 2. ARIS is designed to isolate and damp out tiny vibrations caused by crew motion, running equipment, etc., that could disturb experiments in the rack.
Selected members of the crew conducted the Crew Interactions survey today (Wednesday). A weekly pre-spacewalk reading of the EVA Radiation Monitoring badges is scheduled for Friday and will be followed by a data download to the Human Research Facility (HRF) laptop computer.
Photography subjects for the Crew Earth Observations project this week included: Angolan biomass burning, industrialized Southeastern Africa, Recife in Brazil, Havanna, Cuba, tropical storm formation near Jamaica, reefs around Jarvis Island, and coral reefs in the Tuamotu Archipelago.
The crew continued its daily payload status checks of automated science payloads to make sure that all experiments and payload facilities continue to operate properly.
Editor’s Note: The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.
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