Friday, April 29, 2011

Endeavor's Last Flight

As the Space Shuttle Endeavor prepares for its last voyage (scheduled for liftoff today), we would like to take a moment to wish the captain and crew of this voyage safe travels.

The Endeavor is a ship that has certainly lived up to its name over the years, and will do so again today. Named after the ship captained by James Cook in 1768, it was the first shuttle ever to be named by school-children through a national competition, has successfully captured a damaged satellite, housed medical experiments on the human body in space... Like its namesake, it will continue today to be the vessel for new scientific opportunities.

Cook's voyage successfully mapped Australia and New Zealand, documented new plant and animal species, and generally provided the evidence that scientists are great additions to expedition crew. Today's Endeavor crew will continue in this vein by carrying postage-sized stamps of graphene and carbon nanotubes (discoveries of which recently were awarded Nobel Prizes) into space to see how they respond to radiation. Typical materials used in computers (e.g silicon) are destroyed by the radiation. If the graphene and carbon nanotube composition holds well, this could bode well for significant advances in space exploration.

Are you using today's launch in classroom lessons? Let us know how!

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