To commemorate the inaugural flight of a Get Away Special, or GAS can, the Shuttle Small Payloads Project Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is sponsoring an Open House from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at the Goddard Visitor Center on Thursday, June 27.

Among the activities planned that day is a talk by Gil Moore, a retired Thiokol executive who purchased the first GAS canister on October 12, 1976, as well as presentations by other experimenters who have taken part in the program over the past two decades.

As a pioneer of the GAS program, Moore believes that GAS presents “a unique avenue to space experimentation.” At a comparatively modest cost, GAS gives individuals and organizations, both private and public, opportunities to send scientific research and developmental experiments into space aboard the Space Shuttle.

Since its first flight in June of 1982, NASA has successfully flown 167 GAS payloads on the Space Shuttle to support Earth and space science research, new technology development and promote student involvement in science and engineering. Experiments have been flown for schools, the US government, foreign governments and private companies.

The Shuttle’s payload bay accommodates large scientific spacecraft, which are deployed from the Shuttle after it reaches orbit, o6T‚essurized laboratories where astronaut scientists conduct research in the micro-gravity environment. Today, the primary mission for the Space Shuttle is to support the International Space Station. Since these primary payloads on average do not use all of the orbiter’s payload capacity, there is room left for smaller experiments, which allows NASA to offer GAS cans at a low cost and on a space available basis.

“NASA and the American taxpayer have benefited from the GAS program, in that, the GAS experiments fully utilize all the available space and resources on the Space Shuttle,” says Gerry Daelemans, NASA’s Shuttle Small Payloads Project Chief.

The orbiter has a cavernous payload bay about 60-feet long and 15 feet in diameter and can carry a payload as heavy as 38,000 pounds into Earth orbit. The GAS canisters are about the size of a 55-gallon drum: experimenters provide their own power system (batteries), internal structure, command and data handling systems, and experiment apparatus. The canisters come in three different sizes with a maximum weight of 200 pounds. The standard flight price is based on the size, weight and class of the payload and ranges from $1,500 to $27,000.

The maiden voyage of the first GAS canister contained 10 individual experiments in a 5-cubic-foot GAS container. One experiment grew successive generations of fruit flies to see if microgravity would affect their generic structure. Other tests examined the effects of microgravity on epoxy resin-graphite composite curing, brine shrimp genetics, duckweed root growth, soldering, homogeneous alloy formation, surface tension, growth rate of algae, and thermal conductivity of a water and oil mixture.

The GAS program has been extremely successful; however, several years ago NASA developed a spin-off of the program, called the Space Experiment Module (SEM), in which many of the major sub-systems (power structure) are provided by NASA, allowing students to focus on their experiments.

More information about Get Away Specials can be found on the web site: