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November 1, 1996

Student experiments to fly on board space shuttle

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Four experiments designed by Purdue University students will hitch a ride aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, scheduled to launch Friday, Nov. 8.

A student group, Purdue's Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, was chosen, along with other institutions, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to design several experiments as part of a NASA pilot program. The experiments will test the feasibility of NASA'a Space Experiment Module (SEM) project, which will give K-12 students an affordable way to place an experiment on board a space shuttle mission. An overview of NASA's SEM project can be found on the World Wide Web at http://sspp.gsfc.nasa.gov/sem.html

"The current method for student experiments requires that they supply power and a data acquisition system, as well as an experiment, which is beyond the capability of the average grade-school student," says Chetan Kumar, a senior in mechanical engineering who is in charge of Purdue's experiments. "So NASA designed the SEM project, which is less expensive and has power and a data acquisition system supplied to it." The goal of the project is to reduce the cost of student experiments by 90 percent relative to the current student experiment program.

"Having colleges in the pilot program will help work the bugs out and make it a more user-friendly program when it is implemented for K though 12 students," he says.

If the pilot program is successful, the Purdue group will work with Lafayette and other grade-school and high-school students to develop SEM experiments for future shuttle missions.

Here are descriptions of the Purdue experiments:

aas/shuttle.students/9611f2

Source: Chetan Kumar, (765) 743-1326; e-mail, kumar@tools.ecn.purdue.edu

Writer: Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; home, (765) 497-1245; e-mail, amanda_siegfried@purdue.edu


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