Microgravity University - Blog - Apr 2014

Microgravity Blog - April 2014

APRIL 2014 - Whew! Time flies when you’re having fun! With more than half of April behind us, our team is deep in the first stage of construction, coordinating outreach at multiple locations, and fine-tuning our project. And, at seven weeks until our experiment is airborne aboard G-Force One, we excitedly await the beginning of ground testing.

Physical frame assembly comprises the first stage of project construction for our intestine simulator headed to Johnson Space Center on May 29. The long list of frame components includes: 80/20 extruded aluminum, exterior sheeting of polycarbonate, interior simulator structure of acrylic, as well as a multitude of bolts, nuts, and caulking. Since many components are uniquely placed to fill a specific purpose, our parts could not be simply bought off of the shelf and installed. We have spent considerable time meticulously laser cutting, drilling, bonding, and otherwise modifying many of our parts to not only fit together but to also exceed NASA’s guidelines for frame strength. After weeks of preparation, measuring, checking, and measuring again we have fabricated all of the unique components to build our frame. Of course, when we engineers meet to assemble really anything at all, we are probably more akin to ten-year-olds discovering LEGO’s for the first time rather than college seniors with jobs and internships planned after graduation. Needless to say, we have been having a blast!

Community outreach and presentations have been high on our list this year and we are not even close to finished yet. On Thursday, April 24 and Friday, April 25 from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. the UNL Microgravity Team will be at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, NE for Nebraska Science Fest. We will be presenting neat aspects and pieces of our project as well as the mechanics of how a slinky and even astronauts move in space. On Friday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the UNL Microgravity Team will be at E-Week Open House in UNL’s Othmer Hall. This event showcases the College of Engineering to many high school students and is great PR for our team. On Saturday, April 26 from 9:30am to 4:30pm we will be at Morrill Hall at UNL for Astronomy Day. At these events we will have a booth where students and others can discover what we do, including being able to see and touch the robotic capsule endoscopes, meet members of the team, and learn how astronauts move in space. Clay Anderson, former NASA astronaut and (so far) the only astronaut from Nebraska, will be at this event and he is a great friend to the UNL Microgravity Team.

For our next seven weeks of preparation for flight week at Johnson Space Center, we have several things on our minds. First, we are finalizing a few experimental design elements. Most notably we are working on the addition of a latex wrap for our intestine to counteract the plastic deformation the parabolic flight will have on our intestine. Next, we are entering the world of programming experimental procedure, data acquisition, and simulator coordination for our flight. And finally, in the very near future we will be putting our simulator through the paces to gather performance data.

April appears to be our busiest month yet! But, we wouldn’t have it any other way. #defygravity
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