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A helping hand in space

Brunel's world-famous Institute for Bioengineering was established in 1983 with Professor Heinz Wolff at the helm - its mission to research how human beings could survive in hostile environments.

Home to a multi-disciplinary research team, the Institute developed the concept for a general-purpose experimental facility known as the Glovebox (GBX), giving astronauts the ability to perform experiments safely in space. The GBX space laboratory enables scientists to perform fluid and material science tasks without contaminating the closed environment of Spacelab, a reusable laboratory used on a number of space flights and comprising components such as pressurised modules and related hardware. Although a feat of technology, if the Spacelab became contaminated, it would put a crew in great danger.

Led by Professor Ian Sutherland, GBX was used at Sovietspace station Mir, and on several United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML) missions, including the first, which flew on the STS-50 Space Shuttle Columbia in July 1992. It remains a key contributor to the European Space Agency and NASA space programmes.