UA to take part in NASA mission

By John McMahon

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A team of seven scientists from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory will remotely operate several experiments on NASA's STS-74 space shuttle mission scheduled for launch Saturday.

The LPL team, in coordination with the U.S. Air Force, will operate their "GLO 4" experiment from Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Using a digital spectrograph, the team will study the spacecraft's interaction with the atmosphere and the earth's emissions from solar radiation, said A. Lyle Broadfoot, senior research scientist on the mission.

The mission is the second in a series between the U.S. space shuttle and the Russian space station, Mir. During this mission, a docking module will be added to the station to improve clearance between the shuttle and the station's solar panels, Broadfoot said.

The GLO 4 project, which took its name from the LPL team's studies of the glow which forms around a moving space shuttle, will study how solar emissions carry their energy to the dark side of the earth after the day has ended, Broadfoot said. The project will also investigate the effects of the space shuttle interacting with the space environment.

"At those altitudes," said Broadfoot, "the atmosphere is pure atomic oxygen, which can be very corrosive (to the shuttle). These are risk mitigation experiments designed to collect information useful in designing and developing the space station."

Broadfoot explained that because of the purity and strength of atomic oxygen, as well as the 7.8 kilometers per second speed of the shuttle, the GLO 4's spectrograph can only be tilted slightly into space as the shuttle doors and the docking module is mechanically released from the shuttle body.

The mission will take seven days, Broadfoot said, four of which will involve the journey to the station, getting into orbit, and returning to earth. The shuttle will use the new docking module to attach to the station, and then leave the module there upon departure.

The UA's team will embark on four similar missions, the next one in July 1997. After that, Broadfoot said, the team hopes to place experiments on the station itself, which will then be known as the international space station.

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