slower rate than the ground-controlled samples'', said LMS Mission Scientist Patton Downey, adding that ''gravity is an important factor in the development process. One of the biggest mysteries in science is how you start from one cell and develop different types of structures and tissues. This experiment indicates that gravity may be an important factor in this development.''
Other living specimens included 20 loblolly pine seedlings in a special plant-growth facility. When trees growing on Earth bend, then right themselves, they form so-called 'reaction' wood which is structurally inferior. During the LMS mission, biologists carefully examined the cellular structures of the pine seedlings as part of efforts to devise ways to prevent reaction wood formation on Earth, which would prove enormously beneficial to the paper and lumber industries. After several days of growth, Favier and Helms harvested the seedlings, applied a chemical fixative, photographed them and stored them for landing.
Although the bulk of their schedule was spent in the Spacelab, the astronauts had some free time, which first-time spacefarer Thirsk used to look through the windows at the ever-changing Earth 280 km below. ''Every morning, within minutes of wakeup,'' he wrote in an article for the Toronto Sun newspaper on 29 June, ''we pass over a virtually cloud-free Europe and Asia. I rush unshaven to the window with a camcorder to capture the view one more time. The orbital pass begins over Portugal and Spain, through the Mediterranean Sea, across the boot of Italy and the Peloponnesian peninsula. At eight kilometres per second, we over-fly Cyprus, Israel and the Persian Gulf. Clouds then begin to thicken as we near India and Sri Lanka, which are now in their monsoon season. It is a thrill to recognise features such as the Straits of Gibraltar, the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Athens, the Jordan River and the Nile Delta. These are regions of Earth that were the cradle of civilisation millennia ago and even today play a major role in global affairs, [providing] a recap of history and current events in 15 minutes!''
Was this article helpful?