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Space Shuttle Experts

Feb. 20, 2003, 10:12 AM

Congressional hearings on the space shuttle disaster begin Wednesday, Feb. 12. The following Vanderbilt University professors can add context to your stories. Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line (615-322-2706). 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
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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
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ACCIDENT ANALYSIS

Sankaran Mahadevan, professor of civil and environmental engineering—can explain one of the key methods NASA is using to determine the cause of Columbia’s accident. Mahadevan has conducted research for NASA on this analysis method called the "failure consequence tree" and is currently developing risk-and-reliability techniques for NASA to use in designing the next generation of space shuttles.

News Service: 615-322-2706

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