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Space History Photo: Materials Science Experiments Conducted at MSFC

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The first all-female crew of scientific experimenters began an exercise on Dec. 16, 1974, to prepare experiments that were used during the Space Shuttle/Spacelab missions. (Image credit: NASA)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, another first for NASA, an all-female crew of scientific experimenters began a five-day exercise on December 16, 1974, to test the feasibility of experiments that were later tested on the Space Shuttle/Spacelab missions.

The experimenters, Dr. Mary H. Johnston (seated, left), Ann F. Whitaker and Carolyn S. Griner (standing, left to right), and the crew chief, Doris Chandler, spent spend eight hours each day of the mission in the Marshall Space Flight Centers General Purpose Laboratory (GPL). They conducted 11 selected experiments in materials science to determine their practical application for Spacelab missions and to identify integration and operational problems that might occur on actual missions.

Inside the GPL, the four women worked under conditions simulating, as nearly as practical, those that would exist in a space station in Earth orbit, excepting, of course, weightlessness. Air circulation, temperature, humidity and other factors were carefully controlled. The test was conducted at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, where the GPL is part of the centers Concept Verification Test (CVT), a project oriented to reducing future costs of experimentation in space by involving potential experimenters early in the development cycle of their hardware.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.