NASA welcomes NNU students to Microgravity University again

Northwest Nazarene University received word from NASA today that its Team Super-Hydro will be able to participate in the 2012 Microgravity University program for the second consecutive year. The team will be flying on the famous "Weightless Wonder" April 12-21 to conduct a new experiment using the same super-hydrophobic material used in last year's experiment.

The 2012 experiment will extend the team's research on the super-hydrophobic surfaces by focusing on its application in water purification systems aboard space craft. The team will work to separate the water vapor from liquid water in a passive, phase-separation system. In this process, the impurities stay behind in the liquid while the vapor goes on to be cleaned, condensed and re-used.

Team leader Kevin Halle (Edmonds, Wash.) explains, "NASA's Waste Management Department wants us to test how the maximum amount of water, vapor or liquid can be retrieved from the waste "brine" produced in the space station's filtration system. The current water purification method leaves a small amount of brine after the process. Our experiment tests a possible add-on to the current system that would recover even more water from that brine without using a significant amount of additional energy."

Several new students joined four returning team members to take on a second year of Microgravity University. The team consists of Dorothy Ackerman (Great Falls, Mont.), Kevin Halle (Edmonds, Wash.), Chad Larson (Medford, Ore.), Darrell Leber (Nampa, Idaho), Keith Moilanen (Brush Prairie, Wash.), Weston Patrick (Wasilla, Alaska) and Grady Turner (Nampa, Idaho).

Dr. Dan Lawrence, chair of engineering and physics at NNU states, "I am thrilled. This is an incredible opportunity for our students and faculty, and shows the significant educational research experience all our students receive under the guidance of their professors. Our students are ambitious and deserving of this opportunity of distinction."

Microgravity University is designed to expose these promising young engineers to NASA operations, enabling them to gain research experience and to play a role in advancing America's space program. The NNU team was accepted into Microgravity University's Systems Engineering Educational Discovery (SEED) program segment, which pairs project concepts proposed by NASA principal investigators with student teams. Other teams accepted represent the brightest young engineers and scientists in the country, from universities such as MIT, Purdue, Yale and Caltech.

While on site at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas next spring, four NNU students and one faculty will perform their experiment aboard a specially-equipped NASA aircraft nicknamed the "Weightless Wonder" or commonly referred to as the "Vomit Comet." This jet performs a series of 30 successive parabolic roller-coaster-like flight maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in 25 seconds of zero gravity at the top and 25 seconds of double gravity at the bottom of each cycle.

"This is, once again, the opportunity of a lifetime for all of us, and we are thrilled to get this chance to fly again. Now it's time for the real work to begin," Halle said.