STS-94 Day 16 Highlights
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- On Wednesday, July 16, 1997, 6:00 a.m. CDT, STS-94 MCC Status Report # 30
- With a healthy spacecraft around them, Columbias seven crewmembers
began closing up shop in preparation for tomorrows return home to the
Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with landing scheduled for 5:47 a.m.,
- Early this morning, Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Susan Still and
Flight Engineer Mike Gernhardt put the orbiters systems through a
thorough checkout to ensure their health and readiness to support
entry and landing activities that begin shortly before 1
- The flight control surfaces were tested using one of three hydraulic
units, or Auxiliary Power Units and all 44 thruster jets were fired
and found to be in good working order. Following communications
checks through east and west coast ground tracking stations, the crew
started stowing equipment that is no longer needed for on orbit
- Meanwhile, the payload crew that includes Payload Commander Janice
Voss, Mission Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialists Greg
Linteris and Roger Crouch squeezed in some final experiment work in
the Spacelab module and shutdown those experiments that have been
completed. Final payload deactivation procedures will wait until the
crew transitions to the deorbit preparation timeline about one oclock
- Weather is expected to be favorable for both landing opportunities,
although the first still has a slight chance of some pre-dawn ground
fog developing that may not dissipate in time of the decision to land.
As the sun heats the atmosphere, the ground fog would dissipate rather
quickly presenting more favorable weather for the second which would
be at 7:22 a.m.
- On Wednesday, July 16, 1997, 7:00 a.m. CDT, STS-94 Payload Status Report # 23
- As the orbiting Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL) nears the end
of its mission, scheduled for Thursday morning, the crew of Space
Shuttle Columbia is wrapping up Spacelab experiments in the areas of
combustion science, fluid physics, materials science and
- Mission Specialist Dr. Donald Thomas and Pilot Susan Still
transferred the Astro/Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus from the
EXPRESS Rack to the Shuttle middeck Tuesday morning. The plant growth
experiment had been moved from the middeck to the EXPRESS Rack early
in the mission. The EXPRESS Rack is designed to speed and ease the
transportation of experiments to the International Space Station, and
the MSL mission is testing the design, development and adaptability of
the rack. "Lessons learned from this flight will be implemented to
improve the EXPRESS Rack for the Space Station," said hardware
developer Annette Sledd of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
- The plants will continue to grow in the middeck. "Things are going
great," said lead scientist Dr. Louis Stodieck of the University of
Colorado in Boulder. "We've gotten data showing that the plants are
very healthy. I'm very enthused and looking forward to the Shuttle
landing and the opportunity to analyze the plants."
- The plant growth experiment is studying the effect of space on
various types of plants. The investigation examines the production of
lignin, essential for the formation and joining of woody cell walls in
plants; the production of secondary metabolites, necessary for
generating energy to sustain vital life processes; and changes which
occur in the sugars and starches of vegetable plants.
- Researchers are interested in determining if these plant processes
are interrelated and how they might be manipulated to improve plant
growth and production on Earth. Findings may also verify evidence that
plants grown in microgravity require less metabolic energy to produce
lignin, permitting greater production of secondary metabolites, a
source of many medicinal drugs. Secondary metabolites may also be used
to attract, repel or poison insects.
- Plants being studied aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, include a
species of sage native to Southeast Asia which is a source of the
antimalarial drug artemisinin; one which produces vinca alkaloids,
used in chemotherapy treatment of cancer; the loblolly pine, used
widely in the paper and lumber industries; and a variety of spinach.
- One of the combustion experiments, the Structure of Flame Balls at
Low Lewis Number, or SOFBALL, completed its final run Tuesday morning.
Payload Specialist Dr. Greg Linteris conducted the run in the
Combustion Module. The experiment gathered data on the burning
processes of weak fuel-air mixtures in near-zero gravity.
- The last run, which used a mixture of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon
dioxide, was a repeat of a test performed earlier in the
mission. Sparking the mixture resulted in six balls of flame. "We got
a few more flame balls than we expected," said project scientist
Dr. Karen Weiland of NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Earlier in the mission when we ran this test point, we only got four.
We'll be able to compare this run to the earlier one to understand the
different behaviors of flame balls when there are more of them
- The flame ball experiment completed more runs than originally
scheduled, and the science team wrapped up early, making time for four
additional runs of a study of soot properties. Payload Commander
Dr. Janice Voss conducted the runs last night. The Laminar Soot
Processes experiment, led by Dr. Gerard Faeth of the University of
Michigan in Ann Arbor, is collecting information on flame shape, the
type and amount of soot produced under various conditions and the
temperature of soot components. Information gathered from this study
may lead to a better understanding of how to contain unwanted fires
and reduce harmful pollutants from fires.
- Two runs of a diffusion of liquid metals study were conducted in the
Large Isothermal Furnace Tuesday. Thomas initiated the first run
Tuesday morning. Processing was ended when the science team reported
unexpected readings from the sample. The cartridge was changed out for
another and processing resumed.
- Payload Specialist Dr. Roger Crouch initiated the experiment's final
run Tuesday afternoon. Diffusion is the process by which liquid metals
mix without stirring. The investigation is aimed at determining the
diffusion coefficient -- a fundamental quantity which describes the
diffusion process -- of molten salts. Headed by Dr. Tsutomu Yamamura
of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, the experiment is designed to
also reveal the ideal conditions for electrolysis of molten salts.
Electrolysis is the use of an electrical current to break down a
dissolved substance into its constituent components. Findings may
benefit basic science and engineering processes on Earth. After the
final sample completed processing, Thomas deactivated the Large
Isothermal Furnace early this morning.
- NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and Tennessee Senator Dr. Bill Frist
spoke to crew members Voss, Crouch and Mission Specialist Dr. Michael
Gernhardt by telephone Tuesday. Frist asked questions on behalf of
school students and expressed his personal appreciation for a job well
- The final runs of the Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures experiment
were conducted Tuesday in the Glovebox, completing all nine planned
runs of the experiment. The investigation which is led by Dr. Peter
Voorhees of Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill., could provide a
better understanding as to what causes metals to weaken or fail.
- Crouch spent most of the evening Tuesday deactivating the protein
crystal growth experiments -- the Protein Crystallization Apparatus
for Microgravity, Second-generation Vapor Diffusion Apparatus and
Hand-held diffusion test cells. The microgravity environment of space
allows researchers to grow larger and more perfect protein crystal
specimens. Once back on Earth, scientists perform X-ray diffraction
studies on the specimens to determine their structures. Better
understanding of a protein's structure could allow scientists to
design more effective drugs to treat diseases such as cancer,
diabetes, alcoholism, AIDS and Alzheimer's.
- After a sample of zirconium completed processing in the TEMPUS
levitating furnace, an experiment to investigate undercooling of an
aluminum-copper-iron alloy was conducted. Undercooling is when a
liquid remains fluid when cooled below its normal freezing point. The
investigation, led by Dr. D.M. Herlach of the German Aerospace
Research Establishment in Cologne, Germany, could shed light on
nucleation, the point at which solidification from the melted state
begins. This research could lead to improved techniques for processing
materials on Earth and in turn, better products.
- This morning, Linteris began the final run the Capillary-driven Heat
Transfer Device in the Middeck Glovebox. The study is aimed at
improving the performance of these devices for future use in
spacecraft. Similar devices may be used to transfer heat from
electrical systems to radiators. Capillary-heat transfer is
attractive for use in space because it requires no power to operate
and such devices cost less because they weigh less. This study has
already provided insight into how these devices work and is offering
explanations as to why they occasionally fail in spacecraft
applications. The experiment's lead investigator is Dr. Kevin
Hallinan of the University of Dayton, Ohio.
- Today, Thomas will deactivate the Physics of Hard Spheres Experiment
in the EXPRESS Rack before powering down the facility. Linteris will
complete the capillary heat transfer experiment and later, Thomas will
shut down the Middeck Glovebox. Before completing his shift around
noon today, Linteris will shut down the TEMPUS facility.
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