Students lift off with experience
By Lindy Phippen
March 10, 2006 | The sky is not the limit for Utah
Sate University's Microgravity Research Team (MRT),
as it continues to maintain the University's long held
reputation as the university that sends more experiments
into space than any other university in the world.
MRT, formerly known as the Get Away Special (GAS),
is an undergraduate and graduate program inviting students
and faculty of all disciplines to participate in space
research. As MRT creates state-of-the-art aerospace
technology through a trial and error process, the students
learn skills they can apply at a hands-on level and
are provided with practical job experience.
Rebecca Mitchell, chemistry major and current MRT member
said, "Even though I'm not a physics or engineering
student, I fit right in. along with other science-related
majors, students from psychology, journalism, graphics
and education departments can play a vital part in the
structure of the team."
The team was first developed in October 1976, when
R. Gilbert Moore, Morton Thiokol's executive and former
USU professor, attended a conference where NASA administrators
announced the development of a new opportunity for space
research aboard the newly designed space shuttle. MRT's
Web site states, Moore was so excited about the
educational opportunities this program would provide
he stood up in the middle of the presenter's speech
and asked how much each payload would cost. Moore took
out his personal checkbook and bought the first Get
Away Special payload reservation. He then donated the
reservation to Utah State University creating the first
Get Away Special Team at USU.
"It is exciting to think that former and current Team
members and their advisors are currently doing space
research and engineering at NASA and in private industry."
R. Gilbert Moore said.
For over two decades (1977-present) USU has been the
leader in student space research sending more experiments
into space than any other University in the world. On
June 27, 1982 USU sent the first payload experiment
into space and continued to send 10 more payloads into
space, for a total of eleven experiments, just one less
than NASA. (A payload is a 2.5 to 5 cubic aluminum container
placed in the space shuttle containing microgravity
announced they will no longer be flying experimental
payloads into space due to the impending retirement
of the shuttle program. MRT determined to continue their
activism in space research, have been working to create
alternative methods to assure their experiments make
it to space. The Team has been creating experiments
for an ISO-CRATE (Student Outreach Contained Research
Available to Educators.) An ISO-CRATE is completely
self contained, unlike a payload which relies on the
power exuberated by the space shuttle. The ISO-CRATE
weighs about seventeen pounds and is only the size of
The MRT is also working on the RELM (Remote Educational
Learning Module) similar to the ISO-CRATE, which is
an aluminum box. The RELM contains a controller for
students to program and control their experiments as
well as a digital camera to record their experiment
throughout the flight.
The MRT is currently involved with the construction
of the sixth MISSE
(Materials International Space Station Exposure) experiment.
The MISSE is two aluminum suit case like structures
which will be attached to the outside of the International
Space Station. The small suitcase like structures will
be filled with about 145 different material samples
such as copper, zinc and aluminum. Once attached to
the International Space Station the "suitcases" will
be opened exposing the various materials to the space
environment. The idea behind this project is to discover
how the sample materials handle and 'weather' in space
to provide knowledge that will further indicate the
best materials to be used for space/satellite construction.
"It is important for space research to continue because
of the advantages and breakthroughs it has provided
for life on earth," Andrew Auman, an MRT member, said.
Space research has indirectly improved the quality
of life for humanity. From the development of rubber
from a NASA experiment to the making of artificial hearts,
and everything in between including firefighting gear,
SCUBA gear and computers. Space research has made it
possible to advance technology because there is not
a more extreme environment than space.
Our earth life has become dependent upon technology.
Our cell phones, TVs, debit and credit cards, checking
accounts and GPS systems, all work with the use of satellite
systems. Space research has determined and will continue
to determine what materials are less affected by electrical
storms making it possible to find less expensive materials
to construct satellite systems.
The MRT allows students and faculty to be a part of
space, technological advances and team that is known
as one of the world's premier student space research