"Living it Up" - Life in Space
by Noelle Young
Wheeling Jesuit University Professional Writing Student
"Living it up" takes a more literal meaning for those aboard the International
Space Station (ISS).
Weightlessness-or more accurately, microgravity-is the most important and obvious influence on life in space. But floating crewmembers could be on a dangerous collision course if they're not careful.
"Microgravity," Dan Woodard of Marshall Space Flight Center's microgravity
research progress office said, "is a condition in which the effects of gravity are
greatly reduced, sometimes described as weightlessness. The microgravity environment associated with the space shuttle [and space station] is a result of the
spacecraft's being in orbit, which is a state of continuous freefall around the
Earth." For more information about microgravity from Marshall Space flight
Center, visit http://microgravity.nasa.gov/wimg.html.
Cosmonaut Gennady I. Padalka (left),
Expedition 9 commander, and European
Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers of the
Netherlands, work in the Unity node of the
ISS while astronaut C. Michael Foale (right),
Expedition 8 commander and NASA ISS science officer, exercises using the Interim
Resistive Exercise Device equipment.
Although the majority of astronauts find floating in space exhilarating, it does
complicate the routines of daily life tremendously. Eating, sleeping, working,
recreation, exercises, and physical, mental, and emotional health all are affected. Space adaptation demands significant
changes in the human body. Balance depends on an extremely sophisticated sensor system. The vestibular system inside
the ear sends a steady stream of signals to the brain indicating motion and direction. But in microgravity these signals are
misleading. The usual effect is immediate disorientation. Luckily, the effects are only temporary.
Astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke,
Expedition 9 NASA science officer and
flight engineer aboard the International
Space Station, juggles fresh fruit in the
Destiny laboratory. The microgravity
environment of space proves to be an
ideal location for some tasks not so
easily accomplished in Earth's gravity.
15 Dawns
While the daily routines aboard the space station might be comparable to those on
Earth, the concept of a day is a little more abstract. Every 24 hours astronauts
experience 15 dawns because of the number of times the station orbits the Earth
in a 24-hour period. And because the sun rises approximately every 90 minutes for
the orbiting station, the sunlight and warmth entering the cockpit window can easily
be a disturbance. Generally, astronauts are scheduled for eight hours of sleep at
the end of each day. However, besides the extra sunlight, crew members also have
trouble sleeping because of the excitement of being in space, motion sickness, and
the close quarters crewmembers must share. Also, the procedure for sleeping is
quite challenging. † In space there is no up or down because of microgravity,
astronauts can sleep in any orientation. To keep from floating around and bumping
into something, crew members must attach themselves to a wall, seat, or bunk
bed. Usually, they sleep in sleeping bags. When it is time to wake up, Mission
Control in Houston sends a wakeup call to shuttle astronauts by playing music;
however, space station crews wake to an alarm clock.
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Astronauts choose sleep spots carefully because if they are not in a well-ventilated
section, they may wake up the next morning surrounded by a bubble of their own
exhaled carbon dioxide. Oxygen starvation is the result of a poor resting area.
Astronauts end up with a splitting headache and the feeling of not being able to
breathe. If an astronaut does try to tough it out and sleep floating free, he or she
most likely ends up colliding with an air filter that is trying to suck them into a grill.
Fashion Retakes
Once the crew is awake, the astronauts dress as quickly as possible. Obviously, this
is no easy task when your arms and legs are floating at odd angles. Disposable
Astronauts enjoy a meal specially preclothes are worn in space; they are replaced every three days. There are no washpared by Nutritionalists ensure that a
proper balance of vitamins and minering machines. There is a shower at the International Space Station, but water has to
be conserved, so it can be used only sparingly. It is a luxury that the astronauts
cherish. Shaving is an interesting endeavor. Water and shaving cream stick to the
astronaut's face because of surface tension. Equally challenging is electric shaving. It has to be done next to a suction fan
so the hairs do not float away and clog up equipment.
Spice It Up
After cleaning and dressing, crew members eat the first of three meals during the day. Space food has improved greatly
since the days of the aluminum squeeze tubes. Nutritionalists ensure that a proper balance of vitamins and minerals are
provided; calorie requirements are carefully calculated. With improved packaging has come better food quality and menus.
Astronauts can choose from fruits, nuts, peanut butter, chicken, beef, seafood, candy, brownies, and more. Beverages consist of coffee, tea, orange juice, fruit punches, and lemonade. A meal tray typically holds food containers. The tray becomes
the astronaut's dinner plate. It allows the astronaut to choose from several foods at once. The tray also holds the food
packages in place and keeps them from floating away. Astronauts use traditional forks, knives, and spoons along with scissors to open packages. Garbage goes into a trash compactor. After breakfast the crew begins
the assigned tasks for the day. The work focuses on experiments or performing routine maintenance on equipment.
Bring Your Treadmill and Guitar to the ISS
Regular exercise is essential for astronauts. The human body loses muscle and bone density
in microgravity. A few hours a day strapped to the treadmill or exercise bike helps keep some
muscle tone. Regular exercise also helps relieve what is commonly called "space sniffles."
Body fluids, which are no longer tugged downward by gravity, accumulate in the head and
block sinuses.
James S. Voss, Expedition 2
flight engineer, reads while
exercising on the cycle
ergometer in the Zvezda
service module.
It's important for astronauts to have fun, especially if they are on a mission lasting a few
months. They need a break from their busy schedules to alleviate stress and to relax.
Astronauts bring their guitars and other instruments with them. Playing music together is a
great way to relax and enjoy the ride. Looking out the window and observing the Earth below
or looking into the deep blackness of space is most crewmembers' favorite pastime. In addition, astronauts can watch movies, read books, play cards, and play games. Regular communication with families is also part of everyone's routine and keeps morale high.
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NASA In-Flight Education Program
by Noelle Young
Wheeling Jesuit University Professional Writing Student
Many classrooms across the United States are using NASA missions and discoveries as a foundation for learning. For example, the NASA In-Flight Education
Program provides an innovative way to link to the International Space Station
crew. Teachers and students can access live interviews with crew members living
and working aboard the International Space Station, or they can access the onboard research. These "live links" provide teachers with a unique vehicle to offer
students' authentic learning experiences.
Two live chat programs are offered each month in which classrooms can "talk" to
An astronaut aboard the ISS takes place
the station crew members. Each program is approximately 20 minutes. The disin a videoconference with students.
cussion is usually a question and answer session. Topics included bone density
and muscle loss that astronauts suffer from while in space, ways that astronauts stay fit while living in space, and other
intricacies of space exploration.
Giving students a firsthand experience with the space program invigorates student interest in science and technology.
Recommended Activities
For schools unable to participate in the In-Flight Education Program, here are two activities for students to participate in:
The first activity is All Systems Go This video resource guide for grades 5-12 provides background material and
activities that allow students to learn about the effects of microgravity on humans.
The second activity The second activity is The Brain in Space: A Teacher's Guide With Activities for Neuroscience.
The lessons and activities in this guide are designed for middle and high school teachers and students. The activeties focus on specific effects of weightlessness on the development of cells, vestibular functions, spatial orientation,
motor performance, nervous system regulation, sleep and circadian rhythms.
Shuttle Fleet Stands Idle As NASA Works to Make Safer
Is the space shuttle unsafe? The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986,
and the shuttle Columbia broke up when it reentered Earth's atmosphere on a mission in 2003.
Fourteen astronauts lost their lives in the two accidents.
Investigators determined the Challenger explosion was related to mechanical failure in a solid
rocket motor. Columbia investigators concluded that the second shuttle accident was caused
by technical and organizational failures. These included what the experts called a "broken safety culture" at NASA, an aggressive schedule related to construction of the International Space
Station, budget pressures, and staff reductions.
How can NASA make space shuttle flight safer? The Columbia Accident Investigation Board
made 29 recommendations, 15 of which must be completed before the shuttle can return to
The Space Shuttle Columbia
launches from Kennedy
Space Center January 16,
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flight. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told journalists last fall
that NASA is using these recommendations as a guide to safely
returning to shuttle flight operations. "We have vowed to raise
the safety bar even higher by finding additional ways to improve
the way we conduct business in all aspects of our work," he
The renewed emphasis
on safety affects every
aspect of every job at
NASA. Ron Ernst, an
aerospace education
specialist at the
Goddard Space Flight
Workers in the Orbiter Processing
Center in Maryland,
Facility check the placement of the reinsaid inspections have
forced carbon-carbon (RCC) chin panel
never been more thoron Discovery. The chin panel is the
ough. "Every tile on the
smile-shaped section of RCC directly
shuttle-and there are
below the nose cap that provides a
more than 23,000 tilesthermal barrier during reentry.
must be inspected by
hand," Ernst said. Any tile replacements must be done by hand.
Each shuttle contains thousands of miles of wiring that must be
inspected as well.
NASA also is putting into place stricter protocols for astronaut
missions, Ernst said. "For instance, NASA will most likely not
send another crew to work outside the shuttle on the Hubble
Space Telescope," he said. NASA has conducted several missions in which the astronauts on the shuttle have captured the
telescope and serviced it to full capacity. As a result, Hubble
has provided remarkable new views of the universe.
"We did it, at a high risk to our astronauts," Ernst said. "Now
we're looking back on tasks like that and looking at the possible
use of robotics."
Some believe the shuttle is getting to the point of outliving its
usefulness. "The first shuttle flew in 1981, so we're 23 years
old. It's old technology," Ernst said. "It's still useful, and commercial airlines are flying planes that are older than that and
doing well, but it's old technology." The vehicles were designed
to make 100 flights, with a turnaround time between flights of
90 days. Most will not make it to 100 flights, Ernst said, and the
turnaround time is at least double the 90 days that had been
anticipated, especially in view of the new safety requirements.
NASA and the astronauts like the space shuttle because of its
tremendous hauling capacity. The shuttle is the only U.S. vehi-
The View from Space
Astronomer Ron Parise flew two space shuttle missions, serving as a payload specialist aboard Columbia
in 1990 and Endeavor in 1995. Today he is a senior
scientist for Computer Sciences Corp., supporting the
advanced architectures and automation branch of
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
As a former shuttle astronaut, he has a unique perspective on safety issues. Parise believes the question
of safety requires a delicate balancing act.
"I think that NASA and the contractors who operate the
space shuttle program do an excellent job of mitigating
whatever risks there are," he said. Ultimately, "it's a
tradeoff between the benefits of human exploration of
space and how much risk to the human crew we are
willing to accept."
Humans are surrounded by safety risks, whether
they're soldiers riding in a military helicopter or commuters driving to work. "There's always a tradeoff.
When you drive your car to work, you have to trade off
the risk of getting killed versus the benefits you get by
driving your car to work," Parise said.
He acknowledges that space travel is far riskier than
navigating freeway traffic, but he believes that flying the
shuttle involves accepting the same balance between
risks and benefits. "Human spaceflight is a fairly risky
business because it involves a very hazardous environment when you get into space, but on the other hand,
there's a lot of benefit in our learning how to live and
work in space."
Parise's first space mission occurred after the
Challenger accident.
"Those of us training to fly back then had a lot of concern about the solid rocket boosters," he said. "We
knew a lot of work had been done to improve the
integrity of the boosters, and a lot had been done procedurally to change how we use the boosters to eliminate the particular risk that arose on the Challenger
Nonetheless, he couldn't help thinking about possible
problems with the boosters when he was on the launch
pad preparing for takeoff. "You know technologically
what has been done to mitigate risks," he said. "You
get strapped in and you go fly."
Would he fly another space shuttle mission today?
Without hesitation he replied, "Sign me up."
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cle that can launch up to eight humans and payloads of 60,000 pounds into space and
safely return them from an Earth orbit.
"It is a tremendous delivery truck for us," Ernst said. "You can put something 50 feet
long and 12 feet in diameter in the cargo bay. It's big enough to hold a Greyhound bus
in the back. You don't get the sense of how big the shuttle is until you stand under it.
It's awesome."
The most compelling reason that the shuttle isn't yet ready to be retired is that NASA
has not yet come up with a replacement vehicle. "We're in the development stages of a
new multifunctional spacecraft that will take us to the space station and to the moon,"
Ernst said. "The shuttle is nothing more than a shuttle bus to get us to and from the
space station."
Ernst anticipates the shuttles will complete 15 or 20 more missions to complete construction of the International Space Station. Is he concerned about safety for those missions?
"I think the shuttle is a safe vehicle. I'd fly it in a second," he said. "I'm just waiting for
the phone to ring." In his position as an education specialist, Ernst has had the opportunity to work on the shuttle flight simulator. "I'm OK as long as I don't have to land it."
Workers install Discovery's cargo
bay wiring that will support the
addition of an Orbiter Boom
Sensor System - one of the new
safety measures for return to flight,
equipping the shuttle with cameras
and laser systems to inspect the
shuttle's thermal protection system
while in space.
Most important, he said, is the fact that the astronauts believe in the safety protocols
for the space shuttle. "Our astronauts have a tremendous confidence in the spacecraft.
Their confidence level in what NASA flies and how it flies it is the highest. I have spent
time with the astronauts. They put their lives on the line, and they are confident that what NASA does and their skills
together will get through the mission and back to Earth safely."
ISS Helps Those on Earth
by Noelle Young
Wheeling Jesuit University Professional Writing Student
The International Space Station (ISS) embodies NASA's vision-improve the quality
of life here on Earth. Here's how the station has been meeting that goal since it
first began to be assembled in 1998.
About the International Space Station
The International Space Station is now a fully functioning laboratory in space. An
The station hovers over the Pacific Ocean.
on-orbit assembly began in 1998 with the launch of the Russian-built Zarya (or
"dawn" in English). Also in 1998, Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off on a mission to
connect the U.S. Unity, a six-sided aluminum module, to Zarya. Since then several other missions have been planned and
launched to add parts to the station. In February 2001 the U.S. Destiny Lab was added. The workshop serves as the centerpiece of research. This lab will support experiments that ultimately will benefit those of us back on Earth.
Because of its microgravity environment, the space station opens up unlimited scientific possibilities. As an educational and
exploration outpost, the provides an orbital laboratory for long-term, worldwide research in biology, chemistry, physics, ecol-
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ogy, and medicine. For more information go to http://www.eisenhowerinstitute.org/programs/globalpartnerships/fos/usrussianspace/iss.htm.
Experiments Conducted in Space
Medical research is perhaps one of the most beneficial reasons to study life sciences in space. Many complex changes take place in astronauts' bodies when
they travel in space. With the reduced pull of gravity, their bones become weaker, bodily fluids shift toward the upper body, and body rhythms are disrupted.
Experiments conducted in space might help us find ways to counteract balance
disorders, osteoporosis, or other types of arthritis. Since muscles of astronauts
are greatly affected in space, we hope to understand the effect. That could lead
to rehabilitating people on Earth who have been injured or are bedridden and
need to regain muscle tone.
Additionally, astronauts are exposed to many kinds of damaging radiation when
they are outside Earth's protective atmosphere. This radiation can damage cells
and increase tumors. Keeping astronauts safe from damaging space radiation
might offer a solution for cancer patients who undergo radiation treatments.
How Astronauts Are Affected
Space tremendously affects astronaut's circulatory system, including the heart.
In microgravity less blood flows through the body. As a result, the heart becomes
smaller and weaker. Astronauts feel the effects when they return to Earth. They
are dizzy and weak, symptoms typical of people with heart failure or diabetes.
Echocardiographic images provide quick,
safe images of the heart as it beats. While
a state-of-the art echocardiograph unit is
part of the Human Research Facility on
the International Space Station, quick
transmission of images and data to Earth
is a challenge. NASA is developing techniques to improve the echocardiography
available to diagnose sick astronauts as
well as study the long-term effects of
space travel on their health.
Additionally, the study of astronauts' immune systems could also help us to understand many immune system disorders
here on Earth.
Astronauts also have difficulty because they lose the normal day/night cycle in space because of the numerous dawns in a
24-hour cycle. Strategies to help astronauts with this could also benefit people on Earth with sleep disorders or even those
who work multiple shifts as part of their job.
Other Reasons for Studying Life in Space
Crew members on the space station are performing experiments outside those on themselves. For instance, protein crystals can be grown more pure in space. The analysis of these crystals might lead to a better understanding of the nature of
proteins, enzymes, and viruses. That might spur the development of new drugs to fight cancer, emphysema, and immune
system disorders.
The ISS laboratories can also grow tissue cultures of living cells. These experiments
are important because they aren't distorted by gravity.
Other experiments might lead to new developments in industries here on Earth. For
example, the ISS will conduct research on flames, fluids, and metals in microgravity
environments and study the forces hidden by gravity.
A collage of protein and virus crystals
grown in space.
An obvious benefit of the International Space Station is the opportunity it affords
astronauts to watch planet Earth. They can record their observations and identify
large-scale, long-term changes in the environment. These observations will increase
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our understanding of natural resources, such as forests, oceans, and mountains, and
the effects of natural disasters such as volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, and earthquakes.
Equally beneficial are studies that show mankind's effect on our planet. Images can
be captured from space that provide a global perspective. Graphic images of pollution, deforestation, and water pollution can be invaluable from an ecological perspective.
An astronaut observes and photoObserving from a Different View
graphs planet Earth.
Many space station experiments will actually take place outside the ISS. These
experiments teach us about the space environment and how long-term exposure to
space, its vacuum, and its debris affects materials. This could greatly benefit engineering and construction of future spacecraft design.
Different Approaches, Equal Results
By Michael Hammond
The two ships that service the International Space Station show that there's certainly more
than one way to reach a goal.
As work on the station's construction continues, the two countries spearheading the 16country effort-the United States and Russia-rely on bulwarks of their own space programs.
The United States uses the space shuttle to fly to the station, while Russia has long used
its Soyuz rocket. The two differ greatly, but each has proven capable of transporting crew
and supplies to the station.
The Shuttle and the Soyuz: Structure and Design
Many structural and design differences exist between the shuttle and the Soyuz. First, the
shuttle is the "world's largest glider," making it more like an airplane than a rocket (though
it does stand vertically at launch). On the other hand, the Soyuz is based on Cold War
ballistic missile technology that's been in use by the Russians for more than 40 years.
Second, the shuttle can carry a large payload-up to
60,000 pounds-and a crew of seven, while the Soyuz
mainly carries cosmonauts (a maximum of three) and
minimal supplies.
Against a night sky, the Space
Shuttle Endeavour heads
toward Earth orbit and a scheduled link-up with the
International Space Station.
Liftoff from the Kennedy Space
Center's launch.
Shuttle flights have been on hold since the Columbia shuttle tragedy in February 2003.
(The next shuttle mission is tentatively scheduled for March 2005). Since then only the
Soyuz has traveled to the space station. Because the Soyuz can carry few supplies,
the Russians use a remote-piloted spacecraft called the Proton rocket to supply the
The Space Shuttle Endeavour flies
over Cook Strait, New Zealand, as
it approaches the International
Space Station during STS-113 rendezvous and docking operations.
The Shuttle and the Soyuz: Flight and Construction
Another important difference between the shuttle and Soyuz is their construction and
consequent flight patterns. Only three shuttles remain after the loss of Columbia.
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Though they are reusable, the shuttles are extremely large and expensive to operate. The much smaller Soyuz is not
reusable, so Russia makes 10-15 of them each year.
The two also reenter Earth's atmosphere in vastly different ways. The shuttle
lands much like a jet in an assigned landing place (preferably the Kennedy
Space Center in Florida, though other sites are available). The Soyuz, though,
makes a difficult landing using parachutes, and its landing site is not easily controlled. The Soyuz must also land on a soft surface, usually sand or snow, to
minimize the impact.
Different Ways of Exploring Space
The differences between the shuttle and Soyuz exemplify the two countries' different philosophies of space exploration, says Ron Ernst, aerospace education
A Soyuz spacecraft approaches the Pirs
specialist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. This difference
docking compartment on the space station.
extends from how missions are carried out (American shuttle missions are more
tightly choreographed, while Russian flights are more loosely planned) to the safety precautions taken at the launch of
space vehicles (the nearest person to the shuttle at launch is 3.5 miles away, whereas people are in the immediate vicinity
at a Soyuz launch).
It looks like those different paths will continue. The Russians have no plans to make major changes to the Soyuz or to
design a new primary space vehicle. NASA, meanwhile, plans to phase out the shuttle by the end of the decade once the
space station is completed. One idea NASA is developing is the crew exploration vehicle. Check it out at http://www.exploration.nasa.gov/constellation.html .
Despite the different styles of space travel, the American and Russian space programs have been able to operate well
together. American astronauts train in Star City in Russia before ISS space station missions, while Russian cosmonauts
prepare at Kennedy. Says Ernst, "The cooperative effort is definitely working."
Space Sites
It's tough to teach if students don't have much interest in the subject material. Many
teachers find it especially challenging to get students interested in science. Here are a
few compelling resources that have helped other top teachers get their students excited about science.
The following web sites are designed to engage your students with interesting (and a
few off-the-wall) topics about space travel and the wonderful people on Earth and in
space who make it possible. There's a wealth of information available to capture the imagination of students from kindergarten through college-and more than a few sites dedicated to enriching teachers' lives too.
We hope you enjoy these sites. We'd appreciate hearing from you about other sites you've found useful in your classroom.
Write to us at issteam@cet.edu. We appreciate the information teachers share with us.
Astronauts' Dirty Laundry (K-4 students)
In space no one can hear you Shout . So how do the astronauts get clean clothes? Learn the dirty little
secrets at http://www.nasaexplores.com/show2_k_4a.php?id=03-026&gl=k4.
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Astronauts' Weekend Plans Are Up in the Air (K-4 students)
All work and no fun can make astronauts dull boys and girls. Find out what astronauts do for fun in space
at http://www.nasaexplores.com/show2_k_4a.php?id=02-020&gl=k4.
Got an Idea? See If It'll Fly (5-8 students )
If you have a suggestion about making the next space shuttle flight safer, NASA wants to hear from you.
More than 2,000 people from 28 countries have already shared their ideas via NASA's virtual suggestion
box. Send your idea to http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/preparingtravel/rtf_suggestions.html.
Veggie Burgers in Space (9-12 students)
Imagine a robot asking, "You want fries with that?" It's not too far from becoming a reality. NASA is testing
robots that will grow crops to make yummy veggie-burgers for astronauts on extended space missions. Get
the super-size picture at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/people/journals/space/hogue/12-10-97.html.
Don't Look Now, But Your Assistant Is Floating Behind You! (College Students)
Wouldn't your life be easier if you had a floating, talking, ball-shaped robot to follow you around all day?
NASA has developed just such a personal assistant to help astronauts with their jobs and to make sure the
spacecraft is safe. It's not available at Sharper Image yet, but you can check out this cool new robot at
Stay Out of the Sun (K-4 Educators)
Solar flares are powerful events-they can even cause satellites to stop working, which shuts down cell
phones and cable TV on Earth. Is the sun even more dangerous for astronauts in space? Learn how the
space shuttle and International Space Station are protected from the sun by Earth's magnetic field at
Space Dummy Gives Scientists Answers (9-12 Educators)
Scientists finally have a good way to monitor how much radiation astronauts are exposed to. Radioactive
Fred is a dummy that traveled to space on the space shuttle in 2001 to absorb and record radiation levels.
With Fred's help scientists will know how the body responds to specific levels of radiation, which will help
engineers to create shielding. The site at http://nasaexplores.com/show2_912a.php?id=02-016&gl=912
includes additional resources for students and teachers.
For more in-depth information on the effect of radiation on human DNA, check out this Johnson Space
Center site: http://srhp.jsc.nasa.gov/.
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Publisher: ISS Challenge™ Team
NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future (COTF)
Center for Educational Technologies® (CET)
Wheeling Jesuit University
316 Washington Ave.
Wheeling, WV 26003-6243
ISS Project Director: Enrique Garcia Moreno
Tech Check Editor: Laurie Ruberg, Ph.D.
Writing Services: Janet Boyle, Ghost Writers, LLC., www.ghost-writers.com
Student Writer: Noelle Young
Additional writing services: Michael Hammond
Additional Support Provided by:
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Chris Kreger, CET webmaster
Kirsten Ruben, CET graphic designer
Janis Worklan, CET editor/curriculum writer
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