The following article was published in the Daily
By Debra Glidden
Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2004
NASA honors Nahant selectman
NAHANT -- Selectman Michael Manning, who is a senior scientist with
the Center for Advance Microgravity Materials Processing (CAMMP),
a NASA funded Commercial Space Center at Northeastern University
in Boston, recently received a commemorative photo of the tragic
Columbia mission and recognition from NASA for his contributions
to the mission.
Portions of an experiment that was part of the payload on the space
shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated 19 miles above the Earth
on Feb. 1, 2003, have been recovered and analyzed.
"We were at least lucky enough to get some of the autoclaves back.
Four of the autoclaves were found with 19 tubes intact, the samples
were extracted and the results analyzed," Manning said.
The research Manning and Professor of Engineering Dr. Albert Sacco
are involved in involves zeolite crystals, which Manning refers
to as the backbone of the chemical processes industry. He said the
crystals are a catalyst used to convert crude oil to gasoline.
"We are looking at zeolites that have a wide variety of applications.
Almost all gasoline is produced or upgraded using zeolite crystals.
The experiment allows us to get a look at how these crystals form,
and it will provide information that could help us develop cheaper
and more effective ways to process gasoline."
Manning said the samples retrieved from the Columbia confirmed the
results of earlier tests.
"In space, it takes a little more mixing to get things to react
than it does on Earth but the crystals grow larger in space. This
knowledge may be beneficial in helping us grow larger and more perfect
crystals," Manning said.
When Columbia launched from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad it
carried a SPACEHAB Research Double Module in its payload bay - a
pressurized environment that the crew was able to access from the
Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark, two of the seven astronauts who
died in the tragedy, conducted Northeastern University's Zeolite
crystal research experiments.
It was the first space flight for Clark and Chawla, who served as
Flight Engineer and Mission Specialist 2, respectively. They had
logged more than 376 hours in space.
The experiment consisted of mixing the material in autoclaves, a
sealed container that contains the materials necessary to make the
zeolite crystals, then placing them into the special furnace for
The samples were to be returned to Earth where they would be studied
by Manning and other scientists involved in the project.
SPACEHAB Modules and Cargo carriers have flown on 17 previous space
Manning was involved in developing and packaging the first set of
samples that were processed in a zeolite Crystal Growth Furnace
on the International Space Station, where scientists grew the crystals.
The Zeolite research is crucial to the petroleum industry. They
are interested in studying the crystal growth in space to find new
techniques to improve the catalyst manufacturing process here on
Zeolites, which are as hard as rocks, act as sponges - they are
full of tunnels that can store chemicals and then release them when
heated. CAMMP is studying ways to use the crystals to store hydrogen
fuel, which researchers hope would eventually help reduce our dependence
on fossil fuels.
Manning said he expects the Zeolite research to continue, despite
the Columbia tragedy.
"We're waiting for the resumption of space shuttle flights," Manning