Innovative Experiments are Bringing Microgravity Science to the Classroom

16 February 2012

On August 5, 2009, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Maria van der Hoeven, announced André Kuipers was selected as an astronaut for International Space Station (ISS) Expeditions 30 and 31. He was launched into space on December 21, 2011 and is scheduled to return to Earth by May 2012. During Andre’s PromISSe (Programme for Research in Orbit Maximizing the Inspiration from the Space Station for Europe) mission, more than 25 European experiments will be carried out covering a range of disciplines including human research, fluid physics, materials science, radiation research, biology, and technology.

During André Kuipers mission he will use and maintain the Moog Bradford Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) in the ISS. The MSG is located in the US segment of the ISS (Destiny) and enables scientists from multiple disciplines to participate actively in the assembly and operation of experiments in space with much of the same degree of involvement experienced in their own research laboratories. Because the work area is sealed and held at negative pressure, the crew can manipulate experiment hardware and samples without the danger of small parts, particulates, fluids, or gasses escaping into the open laboratory module.

During Expeditions 30 and 31, science demonstrations will be beamed from orbit to classrooms across Europe, with experiments on convection and creating foams in weightlessness. Moog Bradford is also involved with the Education Payload Operations (EPO) Convection Experiment. Moog Bradford engineered, manufactured, tested, and delivered the flight hardware for theand Flight Safety Package of for this experiment. The EPO Convection activity aims to introduce the concept of convection to European children over age ten. Students will be able to operate their own identical experiment on earth and witness how convection differs under the influence of gravity compared to microgravity.

The flight equipment was loaded onto the PROGRESS 45P in October 2011. The experiment will be performed in the Columbus module of the ISS. Hardware for the experiment is composed of a transparent tube filled with degassed water and suitable tracers. The experiment equipment developed for this program will not rely on electrical power or software. The convection is initiated by holding it in the hand to locally heat up the fluid. Complete autonomy and simplicity are key for a successful demonstration of the concept.

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Michelle Benczkowski

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