Fluid physics experiments by Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason

During Canadian Astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason's 11-day space flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, he conducted five experiments, collectively known as FLEX or the Fluid Physics Experiment on MIM. These experiments utilized and tested the capabilities of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount (MIM), a unique piece of Canadian technology.

Scientists working through the Microgravity Sciences Program of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) discovered that the FLEX experiments helped to identify the precise effects of vibrations on certain scientific phenomena in space, as well as confirm the capabilities of MIM to isolate experiments from those vibrations. (Credit: FLEX Experiments Final Results)

The International Space Station (ISS) is a huge orbiting laboratory that offers researchers the opportunity to make many scientific discoveries which would not be possible in normal gravity conditions on the ground. Liquid motion and the interaction of gasses and liquids, for instance, are significantly altered by microgravity. Mixtures of liquids which separate in the presence of gravity—the oil and vinegar in salad dressing, for example—remain mixed during space flight.

Many space-based experiments, however, particularly those involving fluids, are sensitive to disturbances from such things as the movement of astronauts, the firing of the orbiter  thrusters, and a vibration called "g-jitter" which is common to all large orbiting spacecraft. While these vibrations are small, they can have undesirable effects on sensitive space experiments.

In addition to confirming the ability of the MIM technology to isolate sensitive experiments from spacecraft vibrations, the FLEX experiments provided researchers with indications of how some commercial processes are influenced by various chemical and physical factors.