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Microgravity Science Laboratory


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(MSL)

The laboratory flown on the space shuttle Columbia 1–17 July 1997. Its 16 days of scientific experiments were crucial to long-term investigations planned for the International Space Station. Besides experiments in material science, the MSL-1 crew members carried out research on protein crystal growth and on combustion, which may improve fuel efficiency and reduce the pollution of internal combustion engines.

On MSL-1, scientists used Germany's TEMPUS electromagnetic levitation furnace to examine the supercooling of metals and alloys. The process involves taking a material below its freezing temperature but keeping it in a liquid state (because microgravity keeps it from freezing to a surface). Supercooling can lead to the creation of new forms of metals and alloys.

The original flight of MSL-1 was aborted on 8 April 1997 because of a fuel cell problem. However, NASA decided the mission would fly with the same crew and payload as planned, the first time this has occurred with a shuttle.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.


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