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Fires in Space and Test-Tube Planets: Shuttle Science Mission Results

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Fires in Space and Test-Tube Planets: Shuttle Science Mission Results

January 13, 1997

The results of fires in space, a planet in a test tube, and other materials studies aboard two Space Shuttle missions will be presented at the National Academy of Sciences on February 10 - 11 in Washington, D.C.

usml-2 imageThe briefing will give top U.S. science advisors an overview of accomplishments by two Marshall Space Flight Center missions, the second U.S. Microgravity Laboratory (USML-2) and the third U.S. Microgravity Platform (USMP-3). USML-2 was flown on the STS-73 mission (Oct. 20-Nov. 5, 1995), and USMP-3 was flown on STS-75 (Feb. 22-March 9, 1996). (At left, Fred Leslie at work
inside the USML-2 module.)

This "L+1 briefing" - given about a year after a science mission ends - normally is given to NASA managers and to other scientists involved in the mission. Presentation to the greater public at the Academy indicates the growing importance of microgravity materials sciences. (At right, USMP-3 payload is readied for flight inside the Shuttle payload bay.)

USML-2 and the USMP-3 covered several basic areas of microgravity materials sciences, including:

  • Fluid Physics experiments explored the behavior of fluids and their responses to different forces.
  • Combustion Science experiments improved understanding of the basic combustion process and how that process is affected by gravity's effects.
  • Materials Science experiments increased the understanding of relationships between the structure, properties, and processing of materials.
  • Biotechnology experiments grew protein crystals of sufficient size and perfection to determine their structure and formation, and to investigate the benefits of microgravity for growing cells and tissues.

These investigations brought together government, academia, and industry researchers. USMP-3 comprised several automated experiment systems carried on a support structure in the Space Shuttle payload bay. USML-2 was conducted aboard a Spacelab module where a team of four scientists, including Dr. Fred Leslie of NASA-Marshall, conducted experiments such as the Geophysical Fluid Flow Cell which simulated the atmosphere of Jupiter and of stars.

In particular, USML-2 demonstrated that interactive science experiments between the scientists on the ground and in orbit not only is possible but highly productive. The crew performed experiments around the clock in a perfect example of interactive science in a unique laboratory environment.

For additional information on these scientific results, contact

Dr. Marcus Vlasse
Mail Code ES71
Space Sciences Laboratory
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, Alabama 35812


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Author: Dave Dooling
Curator: Bryan Walls
NASA Official: John M. Horack