NASA reviews science data gained by Columbia mission
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: February 19, 2003
NASA scientists are continuing to assess the status of the data received by the experiments onboard Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) during its final mission. Columbia carried more than 80 experiments, science, commercial and student, on a 16-day mission devoted to research, entrepreneurship and education.
"For those experiments that received down-linked data during
the mission, we estimate that anywhere between 50-90 percent
of the data was acquired," said David Liskowsky, STS-107
Program Scientist for NASA's Office of Biological and
Physical Research (OBPR). Most of these experiments were in
the physical science disciplines of combustion research,
material sciences, and fluid physics. For most of the life
sciences experiments, data and specimens were to be recovered
on landing, so no data is available.
The OBPR science project teams report the overall performance
of the experimental hardware and equipment employed on the
mission was highly successful, with 100 percent operational
success being achieved for virtually all of the experiments.
"In addition to the scientific data that was collected from
the mission, this operational success provides a measure of
the robustness and capability of conducting high quality
research on the Shuttle," Liskowsky said.
During the past week, researchers determined:
- The Mechanics of Granular Materials (MGM) investigators
estimate that careful analysis of the downlinked data
should result in achieving 50 to 60 percent of their
science goals. The MGM experiment used the microgravity
of orbit to test sand columns under conditions that
cannot be obtained from experiments on Earth. The
knowledge gained from this will be applied to improving
foundations for buildings and increasing understanding
of how earthquakes and other forces disturb grains of
soil and sand.
- Almost all of the data from Critical Viscosity of
Xenon, an experiment sponsored by the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, was acquired
before the end of the mission. This experiment measured
the changes in viscosity (resistance to flow) of xenon,
a pure fluid with a very simple structure and a
critical temperature just below room temperature. The
data may help scientists better understand shear
thinning in complex fluids such as paints and foods
(e.g., whipped cream), which need to flow easily during
application and stand firm afterwards.
- STARNAV, a star tracker navigation system from Texas
A&M University accomplished all of its objectives. This
educational experiment was designed to determine
precise spacecraft attitude without prior knowledge of
- SPACEHAB's Space Media commercial payload, STARS, saw
many amazing results on this mission. As part of an
education program with experiments designed by
students, the STARS payload (www.starsprogram.com)
received daily downlink of video, photos, humidity and
temperature readings. Students from Australia, China,
Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, and the United States
designed these six experiments. They were able to
achieve approximately 70 percent of their scientific
objectives, providing unique insight into the low
gravity impact on the behavior and development of ants,
bees, silkworms, and fish eggs, the random crystal
growth of cobalt and calcium, and the web spinning
ability of spiders.
- The Solar Constant Experiment (SOLCON), managed by the
Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium and sponsored
by NASA, was designed to measure the solar constant and
identify variations in the value during a solar cycle.
This experiment was a 100 percent success. The data
will ensure continuity of the solar constant level
obtained by instruments mounted on free flyers, over
climate time scale duration.
- The Low Power Transceiver (LPT) experiments were
completed and 100 percent of the data collected. These
experiments demonstrated LPT's ability to do
simultaneous communications and on-board navigation in
space. The data from this experiment may provide more
cost-effective space operations in future satellites.
- The Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX)
acquired an image of a pall of gray smoke hanging above
the Amazon rainforest illustrating how complex
interactions between smoke and the atmosphere can
influence weather and climate.
The final results from these and other experiments will be
determined in the coming months as the acquired data are
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