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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987