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The following article was published in the Daily item
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 shuttle's middeck.

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 automated processing.

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 missions.

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 Earth.

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 said.

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