Spacecraft glow

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks moving and re-organizing samples from several flight experiments. The principal investigators have all retired, so they were left to me. For some of these, I was co-investigator, so I know them like the back of my hand. Older experiments, not so much. One of the more interesting experiments flew on STS-41G in October 1984 and studied the phenomenon of spacecraft glow.

When certain materials react with the atomic oxygen in low Earth orbit, they glow. The strength of the glow is dependent on the altitude and the spacecraft surface temperature. This experiment flew a bunch of materials from the Hubble Space Telescope to make sure that those materials would have minimal glow in space and not interfere with the telescope’s observations. The investigators looked at the space environmental effects on the materials as well.

It was neat seeing little pieces of history, including a couple of coatings that aren’t made any more.