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No. 84: Nov-Dec 1992

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Odd Growths Found On Satellite

We cautiously classify the following phenomenon as "biological," although it might well be inorganic in nature -- perhaps something akin to "whisker growth" seen in metals under some conditions.

"Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are scratching their heads over how a tiny patch of something managed to grow even though it was exposed to the harshness of outer space for nearly six years.

"The mystery growth has been found in a toothpick-sized region on what is known as the Long Duration Exposure Facility. The bussized LDEF was launched in 1984 and was retrieved by a space shuttle in January 1990, a few weeks before its decaying orbit would have sent it crashing back to earth.

.....

"NASA scientists in Huntsville, Ala., discovered the growth while examining a brownish discoloration on a Tefloncovered section of the satellite.

"Using an electron scanning microscope, they saw tiny, stalactite-like structures on the Teflon. Tiny means the longest were about seven microns in size. That's about one-tenth the width of a human hair.

"At first NASA scientists thought the growth might be a fungus or a mold that had contaminated the LDEF upon its return. However, their tests came up negative,"

(Anonymous; "Odd Space Growth on Satellite Baffles NASA," Arkansas Demo crat-Gazelle, September 9, 1992. Cr. L. Farish)

From Science Frontiers #84, NOV-DEC 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss