(for other entries in the Chemistry in Space series, click here)
Chemistry in space has been greatly aided by the addition of the Destiny Laboratory Module (see also: here for overview, and here for images) to the International Space Station. Destiny was delivered by the Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-98 in February 2001. It is the first permanent operating orbital research station since Skylab was vacated in February 1974. Destiny is a cylinder measuring 28 feet long and 14 feet wide. Inside, there are 24 ‘racks’ (6 on each side) measuring 73 inches by 42 inches. The racks can be configured for storage, life support systems, or – more importantly – science experiments (check out the interactive on this page). 13 racks are available for science, while 11 are used for other purposes.
One rack bay remains open and houses the highlight of the module: a 20 inch optically perfect window made of telescope-quality glass – the largest produced for use in space. It allows the use of high quality video and still cameras primarily for capturing images of Earth in detail not before possible. One rack bay houses the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). It has 4 dewars of 75 liters which can hold samples of various sizes and shapes and keep them at variable controlled temperatures. Currently, temperatures of -80 degC, -24 degC and +4 degC are in operation on the ISS.
The purpose of Destiny is to provide space for scientific research, including experiments in the physical sciences. Experiments are designed and built into the shape of one rack, which is ported into space and installed in Destiny. Racks can be built to be controlled by astronauts aboard the ISS or remotely by scientists on Earth. Destiny is joined by Columbus and Kibo as the main research ‘wing’ of the ISS. Columbus is the science laboratory contributed by the European Space Agency and Kibo is the science laboratory contributed by the Japanese space agency JAXA. Kibo also includes a ‘terrace’ where experiment payloads are fully exposed to the space environment.
Check back for stories of experiments conducted in the microgravity of space aboard the ISS. There’s some pretty awesome research being undertaken.
*Bonus points if you can tell me what movie that’s from