Jan 28, 1998

Soil mechanics experiments near completion on STS-89


Soil mechanics experiments

near completion on STS-89

Jan. 28, 1998: The first three of six specimen cells have been run in the Mechanics of Granular Materials (MGM) experiment aboard the STS-89 Space Shuttle mission now under way, and the remaining three are to be completed by Thursday evening.


astronaut reilly observes MGM cell
MGM compresses a column of sand in a latex sleeve to simulate how powdered materials - including soil under buildings - behave when confining pressures change, allowing the soils to act for a moment like a liquid. Such studies are limited on Earth because Earth's gravity quickly pulls the sand out of place. In space, scientists can extend an experiment for an hour or more, allowing better measurements of how sand particles grip, slip, and shift position. The results may affect everything from civil engineering and soil conservation to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

At right, above, astronaut James Reilly observes an MGM cell as he controls the experiment through a laptop computer (the screen is enhanced to make the MGM specimen more visible). Also available are larger images,

, and . The original is available from Johnson Space Center STS-89 web site. And check the story by the Boulder (Colo.) News. Details of MGM, and print-quality images, were released earlier.

Jan. 29, 1998 update

Images from video downlinked during the third MGM run on STS-89 are available below.



Before-and-after pictures from 20 minutes and 60 minutes (completion) of a test run. .



showing the latter 40 minutes of a 60-minute MGM run (video was not available during the first 20 minutes).


of a test cell. MGM switches from one camera to the next every 3 seconds during an experiment. 320x720-pixel, 110 K JPG.



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