STS-94 Day 15 Highlights
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- On Tuesday, July 15, 1997, 6:00 a.m. CDT, STS-94 MCC Status Report # 28
- As his mission entered the home stretch, Columbia's Commander Jim
Halsell expressed thanks to all those on the ground who prepared the
shuttle, crew and payload for an unprecedented repeat launch to
complete work with the Microgravity Science Laboratory. The first
flight of Columbia with the laboratory, then designated mission
STS-83, was cut short this spring due to a suspect fuel cell.
- Halsell's comments on behalf of the STS-94 crew came during a crew
press conference this morning. Halsell thanked all involved for
helping this reflight of the lab do "what STS-83 set out to do."
- Assembled in the Spacelab pressurized module where the bulk of
science investigations are taking place on the flight, the crew
discussed the mission and its relevance to life on Earth and to what
life will be like aboard the International Space Station.
- With a day and a half of science work left, attention has turned to
completing the more than 30 investigations and starting cleanup
procedures prior to Thursday's return home. Landing is scheduled for
5:47 a.m. CDT at the Kennedy Space Center. Fl. The weather forecast
calls for acceptable landing conditions, with only a slight chance of
ground fog predicted in the vicinity of KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility
runway at touchdown.
- The Blue team of astronauts -- Payload Commander Janice Voss,
Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger Crouch
-- continues to shift its sleep schedule slightly each day to prepare
for landing. Meanwhile, the Red team -- Halsell, Pilot Susan Still,
Mission Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialist Greg Linteris --
wrapped up work on the Combustion Module, a lab facility that houses a
number of flame and soot investigations.
- One investigation, called the flameball experiment, has formed the
weakest flame ever burned, equaling only one watt. By comparison, the
average birthday candle is about 50 watts. The experiment also
provided the longest burning flames in space, about 500 seconds in
duration. The tests provide new data for use in developing models for
combustion processes needed to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient
internal combustion engines.
- Shortly after 3 p.m., the Blue team will accept greetings from Sen.
William Frist (R-Tenn.) and NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. Payload
Specialist Roger Crouch is from Jamestown, Tennessee.
- On Tuesday, July 15, 1997, 7:00 a.m. CDT, STS-94 Payload Status Report # 22
- As the First Microgravity Science Laboratory mission begins day 14
of its flight, crew members are working steadily to complete the
remaining investigations scheduled for the 16-day mission. In a news
conference from space last night Payload Commander Dr. Janice Voss
summarized the purpose and success of the science experiments being
conducted aboard Spacelab. "The nature of research in general is an
evolutionary process, building on what has come before and feeding
what comes after," said Voss. "This is true with the experiments on
this flight. They're all contributing good science to the future of
these research programs."
- One such effort which is providing a foundation for future space
research in the area of combustion science is the flame ball
experiment on Columbia, called SOFBALL. Two more runs of the
experiment, which studies the burning processes of weak fuel-air
mixtures in near-zero gravity, were conducted Monday. Payload
Specialist Dr. Gregory Linteris conducted one run using a mixture of
hydrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Two flames balls resulted and
burned for the full eight-plus minutes.
- The second run, conducted by Voss last night, involved a mixture of
remaining fuels from two previous runs. "This mixture bridged the gap
between two other test points," said investigator Dr. Paul Ronney of
the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Two flame balls
resulted and burned for entire 500-second duration of the experiment.
- The investigation is providing researchers with information
necessary to improve theoretical models. A better understanding in
this area will enable improving fuel efficiency and reducing pollution
in combustion engines.
- Crew members initiated another run of the Coarsening in Solid-Liquid
Mixtures experiment in the Glovebox. The investigation studies a
process that can severely degrade the strength of alloy products, such
as turbine blades in aircraft engines. The experiment, led by
Dr. Peter Voorhees of Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill., is
providing insight into processes which can cause metals to weaken or
- The Droplet Combustion Experiment concluded in the Spacelab Monday
evening as Voss burned the last drop of heptane fuel at one-quarter
atmospheric pressure. "We've achieved our science objectives," said
principal investigator Dr. Forman Williams, of the University of
California at San Diego. "We burned droplets of heptane over a range
of pressures from one-quarter atmosphere to one atmosphere. We were
even able to get some data which will provide a comparison for another
combustion experiment that took place in the Glovebox."
- After that final fire investigation in the Droplet Combustion
Apparatus, Voss removed the control computer, camcorder, camera and
VCR and prepared the experiment for the trip back to Earth.
- Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions visited the Spacelab Mission
Operations Control Center at Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., Monday. He spoke to crew members, offering his
support and best wishes for the mission's continued success. "All of
America is proud of the good work you are doing," said Sessions. "This
is the beginning of a commercially feasible adventure into space
exploration, characteristic of this nation -- a nation of explorers."
- Later, Payload Specialist Dr. Roger Crouch completed the fourth and
final run of an undercooling of metallic alloys experiment in the
TEMPUS levitating facility. The Alloy Undercooling Experiment, led by
Dr. Merton Flemings of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in
Cambridge, Mass., is aimed at measuring how fast melted steel mixtures
solidify. During the study, a spherical sample of iron, chromium and
nickel is positioned in the facility, melted and then cooled. The
science team said all four runs have gone well. Results of this
research may improve steel strip casting and welding processes.
- The undercooling run was the last planned TEMPUS experiment of the
mission. Project scientist Dr. Jan Rogers of Marshall said the
remaining time allocated for TEMPUS experiments is bonus time and will
be used to process samples identified by scientists as good candidates
for gathering additional scientific data.
- Two samples of the experiment analyzing diffusion in liquid
lead-tin-telluride were processed in the Large Isothermal Furnace over
the last 24 hours, making a total of five runs for that
investigation. The study, led by Ms. Misako Uchida of
Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries in Tokyo, Japan, is aimed at
determining the diffusion coefficient -- a fundamental quantity which
describes the diffusion process -- of liquid lead-tin-telluride. The
alloy is a potential material for use in manufacturing infrared
detectors and lasers.
- Today, Thomas and Linteris will be wrapping up other
experiments. Linteris will conduct runs of the flame ball experiment
and the properties of soot experiment in the Combustion Module. Thomas
will initiate the third and final run of an experiment in the Large
Isothermal Furnace to study the diffusion process of impurities in
molten salts. Later, Thomas and Pilot Susan Still will transfer the
plant growth experiment from the EXPRESS rack to two lockers in the
Middeck. The EXPRESS Rack is designed to speed and ease transportation
of experiments to the International Space Station. The plant growth
experiment was transferred to the EXPRESS Rack earlier in the mission
to test its design development and adaptability.
- On Tuesday, July 15, 1997, 5:00 p.m. CDT, STS-94 MCC Status Report # 29
- With one day of science operations remaining, the astronauts on
board Columbia and flight controllers in Mission Control began to
focus their attention on preparations for Thursday morning's planned
entry and landing.
- On board Columbia, some of the materials processing experiments
already have completed their full mission run and were being powered
down. This morning, red team members relocated the ASTRO-PGBA
experiment hardware from its temporary working location in the
laboratory module back to its designated position in the orbiter's
middeck. The hardware is firmly secured in its locker space, and a
fastener broken when the experiment was first moved to Spacelab, will
have no effect on its stability for entry.
- The Mission Management Team meeting Tuesday morning reviewed weather
predictions for landing opportunities on Thursday and Friday. The
outlook is generally good at both the Kennedy Space Center.in Florida
and Edwards Air Force Base in California for the next few days. With
the possibility of ground fog early in the morning at KSC, flight
controllers could elect to bypass the first landing opportunity at
5:47 a.m. CDT in favor of a landing one orbit later at 7:22
a.m. Edwards Air Force Base in California will not be called up for
landing support on Thursday since the long-term weather outlook for
Florida is good and Columbia's systems remain healthy.
- In other activities today, all seven crew members participated in a
general press conference with reporters at NASA Centers in Texas,
Florida and Alabama. Also today, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and
Sen. William Frist of Tennessee made a congratulatory phone call
talking with the three blue team members, Payload Commander Janice
Voss, Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger
- All of Columbia's systems remain in good condition with no
significant issues being worked by the flight control team. The
spacecraft is in a slightly elliptical orbit of 180 x 187 statute
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