Measuring Degradation

The Space Shuttle Endeavor carried an Air Force Office of Scientific Research project to the International Space Station in March to measure how materials degrade over time in orbit in the presence of harsh environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays, atomic oxygen, and extremes of heat and cold. The experiment, known as MISSE-6, includes more than 1,000 materials assembled by AFOSR and Boeing in two containers, much like suitcases, that were attached to the outside of the ISS March 22 by the shuttle crew. They will reside there for about one year, after which another crew of astronauts will retrieve them and bring them back to Earth for analysis of how they have eroded. The research will provide a better understanding of the durability of various materials and provide insights for the design of future spacecraft. (AFOSR report by Molly Lachance)