Space Shuttle tragedy

February 4, 2003

Scientific Experiments in Space
Taylor G. Wang, Centennial Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, former NASA scientist/astronaut and director of the Center for Microgravity Research and Applications—can discuss the importance of the scientific experiments that have been conducted over the years in space and their practical applications on earth. Wang flew on the space shuttle Challenger in 1985 and has supervised two other research experiments in space. Those experiments, looking at how drops of fluids behave in near-zero-gravity, have helped Wang and his colleagues in their quest for creating a “perfect capsule” that could lead to improved treatments for diabetes, Parkinson’s and other hormone-deficient diseases. That capsule, or protective shell, would contain living cells that could be transplanted successfully into the body, something not possible today. Wang says only the minimum gravity of space can provide the insights necessary to create a capsule made of material strong enough to withstand an attack by the body’s immune system, yet porous enough to allow absorption of timed-release therapies.
News Service: 615-322-2706

Robots in Space
Alan Peters, associate professor of electrical engineering—can discuss the role of robots in space. Peters has been working with NASA on the “Robonaut” project, which is developing humanoid robots for use on the international space station. He feels both astronauts and robonauts have essential roles to play in future space exploration. The ideal would be to develop human/robot teams, he says.
News Service: 615-322-2706

Facing Grief Following National Tragedies
Gina Frieden, assistant professor and program director for the Human Development Counseling Program—can discuss how we have become desensitized to catastrophic events because we have seen tragedies such as the World Trade Center attacks and space shuttle accidents. Instead of our culture encouraging people to “move on” from grief, we need to allow time to process that grief, Frieden says.
News Service: 615-322-2706

National Policy Implications, NASA’s Response to Tragedies
Jeff Vincent, director of federal relations, Washington, D.C and former NASA public affairs executive—can discuss the national policy implications of the space shuttle Columbia accident and how NASA responds to tragedies. Vincent worked at NASA from 1987 to 1998, during the agency’s rebuilding after the 1986 Challenger accident. Vincent says if the United States wants a space program, the national political leadership must be willing to make an adequate and sustained investment in it. Safety does not come cheaply, he adds.
Phone: 202-824-6685

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