Two space shuttle experiments indicative of close ties between NASA, Texas A&M

February 3, 2003
| By: Aubrey Bloom

COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M University has had a close and productive relationship with the U.S. space program and NASA for more than 40 years, and two experiments involving Texas A&M were being conducted on the shuttle Columbia in recent days. One experiment involved weightlessness and near-zero gravity effects on blood vessels in laboratory rats. The research that would have been collected was to have assisted in the development of treatments to improve the circulation problems astronauts endure during long-duration space flights. That research was being led by Michael Delp and his wife, Judy, the co-investigator, in the College of Education and Human Development's Department of Health and Kinesiology. The second experiment involved a navigation system involving location of stars to determine a space craft's attitude. Titled StarNav I, the project was headed by Michael Jacox, deputy director of the Commercial Space Center for Engineering, a division of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). NASA funding this year into various Texas A&M research projects totals about $5 million. Other Texas A&M and NASA connections: -- Texas A&M was one of the first universities in the nation to earn the coveted "space grant" designation in 1989. The University of Texas and the University of Houston have similar designations. -- All of the original NASA astronauts traveled to Texas A&M in the early 1960s for computer training. -- The Teague Research Center was built with NASA funds in 1967 for engineering and space research. -- The university's low-speed wind tunnel, now named after the late Oran W. Nicks, played an important role in testing space shuttle models. Nicks, who had a 20-year career with NASA and played a key role in NASA's involvement with Texas A&M, died in a 1998 glider accident. -- Gerald Griffin, a 1956 Texas A&M graduate, served as a NASA mission control director for many years and awakened space shuttle crews by playing the Aggie War Hymn over their radios. -- Numerous Texas Aggies have served as NASA flight directors and managers, among them John Curry (Class of '87); Bryan Lunney ('89); Bryan Austin ('81); Steve Stich ('87); John Shannon ('87); Matt Abbott ('85); Rich Jackson ('80); Lee Briscoe ('68); and Paul Hill ('84); Dana Weigel ('93); Cori Kerr ('90); Steve Walker ('87); and Sotirios Liolios ('94). -- Aaron Cohen, professor emeritus of engineering, served as Johnson Space Center director from 1986-93. -- Texas A&M is part of the 12-member National Space Biomedical Research Institute, an agency funded by NASA to study health problems that could arise during and after space flight. -- Texas A&M is home to two space centers: the Center for Space Power and the Commercial Space Center for Engineering. Both help to merge technology and science to develop new products. -- Texas A&M is also home to the new Texas Institute for Intelligent Bio-Nano Materials and Structures for Aerospace Vehicles (TiiMS), a $15-million NASA center comprising six universities: Texas A&M, the University of Houston, Rice, Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern and the University of Texas-Arlington. The institute focuses on developing the next generation of bio-nano materials and structures for aerospace vehicles. -- Much of the research associated with the lunar landing module during the Apollo moon missions was conducted at Texas A&M. -- Dick Scobee, commander of the Challenger shuttle, was a member of the Texas A&M College of Education Development Council from 1983 until his death in the Challenger explosion in 1986. A College of Education medallion was flown aboard the Challenger, Mission 41-C, from April 6-13 in 1984. Upon his return to earth, Scobee presented the medallion and two shuttle patches to the college. In October of 1986, the Francis R. "Dick" Scobee Memorial Scholarship was funded in his name to be awarded to students seeking certification as secondary math or physical science teachers or majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a math or science specialization. Scobee's widow, June Scobee-Rodgers, was named one of 30 College of Education Notable Graduates in 1999 and was the keynote speaker for the College's 30th anniversary celebration that year. Keith Randall, 2/03/03 University Relations 979-845-4644

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