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Space Station Turns 2

Space Station Turns Two
Science: Physical Sciences

The International Space Station celebrated its second year of permanent habitation in 2002.

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During the second year of the International Space Station's permanent habitation, physical sciences -- exploring the way chemicals, materials and fluids behave when exposed to the unique low-gravity environment on aboard the station -- moved forward with the launch of Microgravity Science Glovebox provided by the European Space Agency.

Researchers know that the physical properties of fluids and materials -- and their reactions when melted and solidified -- change when subjected to different gravity levels. In the low-gravity environment inside the space station, processes often are slower, making them easier to study. Phenomena masked by Earth's gravity become more visible, and scientists can gather valuable data for designing materials and systems that work at different gravity levels and improve processes and products on Earth.

Basic materials and fluids experiments done aboard the space station will help NASA explore the universe by creating new materials and fluid systems that work at different gravity levels. They also will improve materials and processes used every day on Earth.

IMAGE: NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson works with SUBSA hardware.
NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson installs hardware for the Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox.

Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules

The Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules, or SUBSA, experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox involved eight samples of semiconductor material. The goals of the SUBSA experiment were to determine what causes motion in the melted fluids used to create semiconductors in space and to reduce the magnitude of that motion. Understanding this process could lead to a reduction in defects in semiconductors produced in space and on Earth.

Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation

The Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation, or PFMI, processed eight materials samples in the glovebox to examine the way bubbles form and behave as metals and alloys are processed. Bubbles that become trapped during processing are defects that can weaken metals and alloys used to make jet engine turbine blades and other applications where high strength is critical.

Physics of Colloids in Space

The Physics of Colloids in Space (EXPPCS) investigation was returned to Earth after nearly a year's study of colloids -- a system of fine particles suspended in a fluid. Paint, milk and ink are some common examples of colloids. Although these products are routinely produced and used, scientists still have much to learn about the underlying properties of colloidal systems. Understanding their properties may allow scientists to manipulate the physical structures of colloids -- a process called "colloidal engineering" -- for the manufacture of new materials and products.

Space is the only place were some colloid structures can be studied. On Earth, gravity causes the particles to sink to the bottom of a container before they fully form some structures. In microgravity, the particles stay suspended as they organize over long periods into unique crystal and gel structures. A series of experiments was completed on the space station using eight unique samples. Scientists at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, are analyzing data received from the experiments during the mission as well as samples returned to Earth after the mission.


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 12/18/2002
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