June 25, 2012
Credit: Credit: NASA
Frank Morring, Jr./Washington
Astronaut Don Pettit is a real Mr. Fixit, and that is just fine with the scientists who trust him to run their experiments on the International Space Station.
View an interactive presentation of space station research facilities.
In a recent working session with Paul Ferkul, a combustion engineer at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Pettit carefully bent a combustion sample's frame a little with a pair of pliers so it would touch the igniter, and then he held it up to a video camera for Ferkul—and anyone else watching the webcast of the experiment session.
“That looks fine,” said Ferkul in Ohio.
“I hope this works,” said Pettit from the station. “This is what our flight suits are made of.”
In the experiment that followed, the Nomex test swatch glowed and carbonized as it was heated, but it did not burst into flame, even with a fan-driven draft in the station glovebox Pettit was using.
“That's really what we expected,” says Ferkul. “We thought it might be flammable in space, and this result is good from a safety point of view, in terms of the material used up there.”