Materials Tortured in Space
An ongoing experiment tests the mettle of glass and other materials
High-energy radiation and atomic oxygen wreak havoc on satellite parts. To evaluate the durability of materials being developed for future satellites, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is running samples through a space-based torture test called MISSE-8. Astronauts bolted a platform full of one-inch samples of mirror coatings, laser-tuning crystals, structural foam and other materials to the outside of the International Space Station, where it will remain for just over two years. The samples, which were sent to the ISS on one of the last space shuttle flights, in May, will return to Earth in July 2013 on the SpaceX Dragon capsule. Scientists from the labs that made each sample will examine them for pitting, cracks and discoloration.