On Wednesday, March 21, 2001, NASA hosted a web conference featuring Dr. DeLucas. Dr. DeLucas was one of the eight members who flew on the Columbia spacecraft in 1992. He is a co-author and also holds nine patents. On his mission on the Columbia, he flew with 7 men and 2 women for 14 days. His main project was to research protein crystallization. In conducting his experiements he did tests on his crew members using a fungus camera. Also when performing his tests he used a tool that allowed him to determine the 3D structure of protein crystals and proteins that are repeated.
Before the Columbia mission the crew trained in Huntsville, AL to conduct simulations. Also in Houston, TX to learn about space shuttles and what life would be like in space. Gravity training was done in T38 jets.
Even though the conference was cut short it was very informative. I had never heard of protein crystallization before this conference. It was interesting to learn about how Dr. DeLucas and the rest of the crew went about doing their experiments in space and all the training that it took to get them ready.
One Wednesday March 21, 2001, I attended the Video Conference. It was given by the ECSU Network Resources and Training Site NASA series. The keynote speaker was Dr. Lawrence J. DeLucas, who is a Payload Specialist and a crewmember of the Space Shuttle Columbia for the United States Microgravity Laboratory-1 Space lab mission.
He began his presentation by describing the process that takes place before going into space. The training process started in 1992, the crew was composed of two females and five males. The total training time lasted two years. During the first year of training you learn all the science that goes along with going into space. The second year you participate in simulation modules in Huntsville, Alabama. Each simulation model contains 600 malfuction procedures, for every possible malfunction situation. Then in Texas you learn how to operate the main computers of the shuttle, and other minor things such as: how to eat on the shuttle, sleep, etc.
After describing the learning process, he began to discuss his experiment that he does in space, called Protein Crystallography (Crystal experiment). This particular experiment allows you to determine the 3-D structure of protein, by exposing the crystal to x-rays. Then the conference was ended at our viewing site at Hampton University due to technical difficulties.
Dr. DeLucas spoke about his experience with the space shuttle program. He spoke about the training that he had to go through in order to make the trip. He spent one year at the Huntsville, Alabama center learning about the science behind the mission. During the second year of training he spent time in Houston. In Houston he learned how to operate all the Computers. While in Houston he also learned the 600 malfunction procedures. He also learned how to live on the space shuttle, from walking around to eating. Dr. DeLucas purpose on the spaceship was to be a scientific expert. He researched crystallograpy he wanted to determine the 3D structure and expose it to x-rays. X-ray crystallography is an experimental technique that exploits the fact that X-rays are diffracted by crystals. It is not an imaging technique. X-rays have the proper wavelength to be scattered by the electron cloud of an atom of comparable size. Based on the diffraction pattern obtained from X-ray scattering off the periodic assembly of molecules or atoms in the crystal, the electron density can be reconstructed. Additional phase information must be extracted either from the diffraction data or from supplementing diffraction experiments to complete the reconstruction (the phase problem in crystallography). A model is then progressively built into the experimental electron density, refined against the data and the result is a quite accurate molecular structure.
I attended the NASA videoconference on Wednesday the twenty-first of March. The Speaker was Dr. DeLucas, who was a Payload Specialist on a past space mission. The focus of the speech was about science experiments that occured in 1982, and their current implications with regards to the International Space Station.
Prior to traveling to space, the speaker did research at various universities. The paradigm for this was the speaker and his colleagues inquiring into research done by professors. The professors would teach the speaker the findings of his or her research. The speaker also traveled to Houston, Texas for three days, where they participated in simulation of what to do if all goes wrong during the actual space mission. In addition, the speaker also traveled to Huntsville, Alabama where he was a passenger on a modified airplane with extra engines. The modified plane ascends to a predefined height near the earth's atmosphere and then glides back down. This allows a period of twenty seconds of zero gravity. In these twenty seconds the speaker was tasked with running tests on the hardware that would be used in space.
As a Payload Specialist, the speaker's job was to perform experiments. In particular, these experiments involved protein growth and protein crystallography. The goal of the experiments was to observe the third strain of protein. During the trip to space the proteins are stored in water.
Vincent John Hart
I was pleased to have the opportunity to see and hear a little bit of Dr. Lawrence DeLucas' presentation. The broadcast was interrupted early in his lecture. At the start I learned quite a bit about Dr. DeLucas' background. He received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science degree in physiological optics, and a doctorate in optometry and biochemistry, all at University of Alabama-Birmingham. Dr. DeLucas along with two women and four other men, was a member of the crew of Space Shuttle columbia for STS-50/United States Microgravity Laboratory-1 (USML-1) Spacelab mission. He has published over 60 research articles in referreed scientific journals, is co-author of 2 books, and co-inventor of 3 patents.
Currently, Dr. Lawrence DeLucas is a payload specialist for NASA. A payload specialist is an individual who has been designated by commercial or international partners to serve as a crew member in association with a specific payload and/or to accomplish an agreed upon mission objective. He performs experiments in the area of protein crystallography which determines the three-dimensional structure of proteins. Dr. DeLucas touched on his experience with the Space Shuttle Columbia. Mission experiments included: Crystal Growth Furnace; Drop Physics Module; Surface Tension Driven Convection Experiments; Zeolite Crystal Growth; Protein Crystal Growth; Glovebox Facility; Space Acceleration Measurement System; Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus; Astroculture-1; Extended Duration Orbiter Medical Project; and a Solid Surface Combustion Experiment. The astronauts went through two years of training visting 25 universities. Within the training the astronauts performed experiments focusing on combustion, fluid dynamics, and protein crystallization. The astronauts traveled to Huntsville Alabama where they would be doing experiments, which they would be performing on the space mission. During this time they learned over six hundred malfunction procedures, while practicing the procedures they were given four or five scenarios at a time.
I really enjoyed the video conference and wish I would have been able to see Dr. DeLucas' entire presentation. It was very insightful and nice to hear about at least one of the missions that NASA conducts. I look forward to learning more about past or future NASA space endeavors.