Learn about the Long Duration Exposure Facility and the information scientist are studying after return. Also learn about building the Rovers for the exploration mission on Mars.
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Learn About the LDEF This 11-ton satellite called the long duration exposure facility or LDEF had been in space for almost 6 years before it was returned to earth fro examination. After delivery to the Kennedy space center and several months of close inspection, its 57 external experiments were shipped to scientists around the globe. The effects of long term exposure to space can be seen in this materials and coating experiment. The various colorations and striping evident on the surface here were not present when LDEF was put into orbit. In fact, the top of this panel looked exactly like its unexposed underside prior to the journey. The goal is to determine the significance of these changes so that future spacecraft and structures could be built with the best possible materials. Twenty-two aluminum panels were positioned around LDEF. Day mission was simple, be struck by a micrometeoroids and other manmade debris. Determining how many particles are out there, where they are and what they’re made of is critically designing future protection for astronauts in spacecraft. Research scientist discovered that a thermal control paint used almost universally on spacecraft could contaminate optical materials. These unexpected brown staining would almost certainly result in the change in surface coatings for future space applications. Learning more about cosmic rays was the goal of an LDEF experiment at the naval research lab in Washington, DC. Cosmic rays are fast moving particles that can penetrate human skin and even disrupt on board computers, another fact that could be considered in developing future space hardware. More than 12 million tomato seeds were also carried on LDEF. They were distributed to students of all ages around the US. The majority of the plants eventually produced normal fruit. In addition to providing valuable information about the effects of space on living matter, the seeds project was designed to excite young people about science. The long duration exposure facility further extended our knowledge and capabilities in space. Despite the loss of the shuttle Columbia, NASA is pressing ahead with its Mars rover project. Two rovers were launched in one of the agency’s most ambitious undertakings. The cost for the rovers, the launch and the analysis of the information they gather is about 800 million US dollars. NASA believes the information gathered by the rovers will enhance our knowledge of the red planet of earth. NASA built two rovers to explore the surface of Mars and they were launched separately around delta rockets. The launches took place in 2003 where arrival in January of 2004. With two rovers, NASA hopes it can increase the amount of information it can gather while being prepared if one of the rovers is damaged or destroyed. It can take more than 20 minutes to get a radio message to the rovers once they have reached Mars. As a result, NASA has built the rovers to operate as independently as possible. The planned period for the rovers operation on Mars is about 90 days. However, if the rovers can avoid damage that period might be extended to 6 months. Beyond that the Martian winter sets in limiting the sunlight that powers the rovers’ solar panels. Each rover is outfitted with all the tools a human geologist might carry into the field. The rovers will be able to pick up and scan Martian rocks. Each rover is also equipped with cameras that can transmit pictures back to earth. These pictures will allow scientist to plan missions for the rovers. Meanwhile, NASA is still willing from the destruction of the shuttle Columbia. Many scientist of JPL feel the Mars rover project is their way of honoring the Columbia cruise sacrifice.
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