To Maine and beyond…

With all of the excitement of the comet landing this week, we just had to highlight all of the Mainers who have been in space and how several of our partners have made an impact on space travel and exploration.

Robert Rushworth, Maine’s first astronaut, was a test pilot who flew the X-15 over 30 times to a maximum speed of 4,018 mph (Mach 6.06). He flew the rocket research aircraft more times than any other pilot, and was only the second Air Force X-15 pilot to achieve the astronaut rating. Charles “Scorch” Hobaugh has had three spaceflights, all to the International Space Station, the last being in 2009. Chris Cassidy, from York, lived aboard the International Space Station for 5 months in 2013. The latest Maine astronaut is Jessica Meir from Caribou, who is still in astronaut training.

Various organizations around the state have assisted NASA in multiple projects. In 2010, mice from the Jackson Laboratory were part of the Space Shuttle crew. The Space Shuttle Discovery included an experiment “to help scientists understand the long-term effects of space environment on the immune system’s ability to fight infection.”

Currently, University of Maine researchers are designing a wireless leak detection system for the International Space Station that could lead to increased safety on the space station. This could also help industrial plants here on Earth in the event of gas and oil leaks.

Engineers with the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (and local high school students!) are working with NASA on perfecting Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology. The HIAD is “a spacecraft nose-mounted ‘giant cone of inner tubes’ stacked like a ring toy” which slows a spacecraft down as it enters the atmosphere. NASA scientists sought out University of Maine engineers for this venture, after hearing about the award-winning Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM project (a deflated bridge arch that fits in a hockey equipment bag).

Maine organizations and individuals all over the state are having an impact on our world and beyond. Celebrate and learn about other scientific and technological marvels our state has to offer at the Maine Science Festival March 20-22, 2015!