The impacts of failed landing of NASA space probe are mitigated by a TESCAN microscope

May/03/2012
A TESCAN scanning electron microscope will be helping the US space research starting from autumn 2011. It is one of the newest applications of TESCAN devices that were presented at the celebratory colloquium held upon the occasion of TESCAN’s 20th anniversary. Around 70 experts in the field of microscopy from all over the world took part in the colloquium.

In August 2001, NASA sent a probe to space as part of the Genesis project to collect solar wind. In September 2004, the probe was set to return safely back to Earth, to a designated area in the desert in the American state of Utah. Unfortunately, due to a design flaw, one of the parachutes failed to deploy, causing the capsule to fall to the desert floor at a speed of 311 km per hour. “NASA termed this incident ‘non-optimal landing’” pointed out Dr. Martin Zadrazil, director of the Brno division of TESCAN, which comprises the entire technical section of the company, including research and development. “The speed of the crash was enormous: for instance, the fastest Porsche can go as fast as 290 kph,” noted Zadrazil. A TESCAN microscope won the tender for the university in Berkeley, California, and the researchers in the space lab of the university will be using the device for separation of the solar wind from the remains of the desert soil and other materials and its further examination.

Dr. Marek Kotrly from the Institute of Criminalistics in Prague introduced some examples of the crucial role of TESCAN microscopes in forensic science, particularly in identifying the culprit. Using the microscope, one can for example identify the prints of the culprit on pieces of broken glass (e.g. shop windows), determine whether a car involved in a traffic accident had its lights on at the time of the accident, collect various information from the car paint, analyse counterfeit goods including banknotes, human and animal hair etc. “We can say that microscopy is essential for our work to examine samples of all kinds of materials, both natural and artificial,” added Kotrly.

Another interesting field where microscopy is necessary is conservation of historical monuments and objects. Alena Michalcova from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague explained that TESCAN microscopes help determining how an object was damaged. “In historical materials for instance, we can study the degree of damage, what kind of degradation occurred and whether the material can still be used,” she emphasized. The given material (e.g. metal, wood, textile, paper, leather) can also be submitted to artificial ageing, and then, using the microscope, they examine which disinfection agent damages the material the least, and which is therefore the best to use. “Some of them may damage a centuries’ old material for good,” Michalcova pointed out.

“Some pictures can only be obtained using the VEGA microscope by TESCAN,” said Dr. James C. Weaver from Harvard University, who presented some of his best pictures from the underwater world and the animal kingdom, taken on a TESCAN VEGA microscope.

TESCAN is a Czech company based in Brno, one of the global suppliers of scientific instruments. Within the 20 years of its existence, the TESCAN brand has built its reputation particularly in designing and manufacturing scanning electron microscopes and system solutions for various applications.

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