Not Crystal Clear

Zero-gravity protein is no reason to build a space station, say scientists

ONE OF THE ARGUMENTS FOR building the multibillion-dollar space station Freedom is that it would provide a zero-gravity laboratory to grow bigger and purer protein and silicon crystals. But increasingly there is a question as to whether the crystal-growing techniques, at least for proteins, are all that reliable. Reviewing a decade's worth of such space efforts, scientists writing in Nature found that less than a quarter of the experiments actually worked, and then with only mixed success. Their recommendation: rent time aboard the already orbiting Russian space station Mir.

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