CLOSE

Where NASA Tests Hardware Bound for Space


Photo courtesy of NASA. Click to enlarge.

The environment outside Earth's atmosphere is unforgiving—humans could last maybe 3 minutes in the vacuum of space before expiring. (Luckily, they'd only be conscious for about 15 seconds of that.) But space isn't just tough for humans; it's also pretty rough on the equipment astronauts use there, so everything bound for space must be vigorously tested. Vacuum Chamber 5 (VF-5), located at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, is one place where electric propulsion systems are put to the test.

Though there are many vacuum chambers at Glenn Research Center (including the world's largest), VF-5 does the best job of re-creating a space environment thanks to "the highest pumping speed of any electric propulsion test facility in the world," according to NASA.

The facility is equipped with cryogenic panels, located at the top and back of the chamber, which contain a helium-cooled panel that can reach a chilly -440 degrees Fahrenheit (absolute zero is -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit). As NASA explains, "The extreme cold of this panel freezes any air left in the chamber and quickly freezes the thruster exhaust, allowing the chamber to maintain a high vacuum environment. The outer chevrons are cooled with liquid nitrogen to shield the cryogenic panels from the room temperature surfaces of the tank." It's in these conditions that NASA then tests electric propulsion and power systems crucial to space missions, such as hall thrusters.

The super-cold conditions also help capture the xenon propellant used in the testing, which freezes to ice. NASA collects and reuses the pricey propellant.

VF-5 is currently being used to test Solar Electric Propulsion technology, which will help take future astronauts to Mars and beyond.

[h/t io9]

arrow
video
26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

Original image
iStock
arrow
video
Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
Original image
iStock

Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios