- As the public and Congress debate the relevance of the national
space program following the recent space shuttle Columbia catastrophe,
a University of Southern Mississippi professor and his student researchers
are watching NASA's future keenly as one of their experiments hangs
in the balance.
John Pojman and a team of Southern Miss students are working on
a research project that is slated to go aboard the International
Space Program in the next several years. But funding for NASA --
and by extension, Pojman's experiment has been threatened
in the wake of the Columbia tragedy, which claimed the lives of
what the tragedy will do for the whole space program," said
Pojman, whose research projects have been supported by NASA since
people worked for so long to make it a success. I fear what happened
after the Challenger disaster could happen now, putting everything
on hold for years. And just when the program was gaining so much
concerns miscible fluids and was designed to "develop a greater
understanding of how polymer molecules interact with small molecules,"
is a graduate researcher who worked with Pojman last summer aboard
the NASA's KC-135 "vomit comet," an airplane that can
simulate weightlessness. Zoltowski said their newest project is
going to try to prove a "100-year-old theory" that suggests
in weightlessness, miscible fluids or fluids that can mix
together could act like immiscible fluids those fluids
that cannot mix.
space exploration, this theory could not be tested," Zoltowski
the experiment's future hinges on NASA's future: it cannot be done
without the effects of weightlessness. Said Pojman, "There's
no way on Earth, as we like to say."
demise, President George W. Bush has pledged $15.5 billion to NASA
for the fiscal year 2004. While Pojman said he thinks the benefits
of continuing science's march outweigh the risks of continuing space
exploration, he knows the decision will ultimately come down to
done on the space station can only be done there, and I'm confident
that all of the experiments planned for the space station are valuable
ones that may also have a long-term, practical application for humanity,"
the public wants to pay for it is a political choice, and we don't
have an absolute right to their money," he added.
To his knowledge,
Pojman said the Southern Miss experiment is still scheduled in 2006
to go aboard the international space station currently manned
by three astronauts who will likely be retrieved by a Russian space
shuttle in April.
not the schedule holds, however, is the "$100 billion question,"
is making an already complicated situation worse because we were
already stressed greatly with scientific investigation being put
on hold, in terms of funding, and now this makes it more uncertain,"
Pojman said. "The timetable for experiments may be pushed back