Taylor Wang, Ph.D.
(Prof. / U.S. Astronaut, Space Shuttle Challenger)
2.6 – Alien Tech (12.2.10)
6.14 – Mysterious Devices (6.27.14)
Taylor Gun-Jin Wang (born June 16, 1940) is a Chinese American scientist and in 1985, became the first Chinese person to go into space. While an employee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Wang was a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger mission STS-51-B.
Early life and education
With ancestry in Yancheng, Jiangsu, Republic of China, Wang was born in Jiangxi to Wáng Zhāng (王章) and Yú Jiéhóng (俞洁虹/俞潔虹). He moved to Taiwan in 1952 with his family. He studied his later part of elementary school in Kaohsiung, and graduated from The Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. He later moved to Hong Kong. He started studying physics in UCLA in 1963, and received his Bachelor of Science in 1967, and his Master of Science in 1968, and his doctoral in low temperature physics – Superfluid and solid state physics in 1971.
Career and research
After completing his doctorate, Wang joined the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1972, as a senior scientist. At JPL he was responsible for the inception and development of containerless processing science and technology research. He was the Principal Investigator (PI) on the Spacelab 3 mission NASA Drop Dynamics (DDM) experiments, PI on the NASA SPAR Flight Experiment #77-18 “Dynamics of Liquid Bubble,” PI on the NASA SPAR Flight Experiment #76-20 “Containerless Processing Technology,” and PI on the Department of Energy Experiment “Spherical Shell Technology.”
He gained US citizenship in 1975, and published a paper on dynamic behavior of rotating spheroids in zero gravity the next year. The paper received attention in NASA, and Wang was selected as a payload specialist on June 1, 1983 for the Spacelab-3 mission.
Wang conducted precursor drop dynamics experiments for the DDM in ground-based laboratories employing acoustic levitation systems, neutral buoyancy systems and drop towers, and in the near weightless environment provided by JSC’s KC-135 airplane flights and SPAR rockets. These flights have helped to define the experimental parameters and procedures in the DDM experiments performed on Spacelab 3. He is the inventor of the acoustic levitation and manipulation chamber for the DDM. (Wang, T.G., M. Saffren, D. Elleman and J.C. Fletcher (1975) Material Suspension Within an Acoustically Excited Resonant Chamber. U.S. Patent No. 3,882,732)
Wang flew on STS-51B Challenger (April 29-May 6, 1985). STS-51B/Spacelab-3 was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was the first operational Spacelab mission. The seven-man crew aboard Challenger conducted investigations in crystal growth, drop dynamics leading to containerless material processing, atmospheric trace gas spectroscopy, solar and planetary atmospheric simulation, cosmic rays, laboratory animals and human medical monitoring.
The launch was flawless; all systems were “go”, except for Dr. Wang’s experiment. His experimental apparatus developed a malfunction. The possibility of going home empty handed saddened him. As the first person of Chinese descent to go into Space, the Chinese American community had taken a keen interest in his mission.
He asked mission-control’s permission to repair his instrument, and they denied his request—for good reasons. He understood NASA’s point of view, but, in a total desperation, he said, “If you guys don’t give me a chance to repair my instrument, I’m not going back.”
Fortunately for him, NASA decided not to call his bluff, and granted him a chance to repair his instruments. Working around the clock, and around the Earth, he repaired the instrument, and the experiment was a success – it continues to contribute his current research interest.
At mission conclusion, Wang traveled over 2.9 million miles in 110 Earth orbits, and logged over 168 hours in space. By all accounts, it was a successful mission. However, the mission had a close call, STS-51B mission commander Overmyer discovered while serving on the Challenger accident investigation team that 51-B had had a similar problem with its O-rings during the launch. Morton Thiokol engineers told STS-51B crew, Don Lind that “you all came within three-tenths of one second of dying”.
Utilizing insights from compound droplet experiments performed in the microgravity of NASA Shuttle Mission STS-51-B, Dr. Taylor Wang, has developed an immunoisolation encapsulation system that protects cellular transplants, and sustains cell function — without immunosuppression drugs and their resulting negative side effects. This novel immunoisolation system is a multi-component, multi-membrane capsule that allows independent optimization of all capsule design parameters ensuring reproducible functions in large animals and humans. Results of Encapsulife’s successful large animal trials, have recently been published in peer-reviewed research in Transplantation Journal. In this landmark research, encapsulated canine pancreatic islets were transplanted into dogs rendered diabetic by total pancreatectomy. No immunosuppression or anti-inflammatory therapy was used. The allotransplantations of encapsulated islets were well tolerated and biocompatible, and normalized fasting blood glucose levels in all of 9 dogs, were achieved for over two hundred days, with a single transplantation. Re-transplantation of encapsulated islets — a “booster” — was effective in providing glycemic control beyond the initial 200 days.
Wang later became a Centennial Professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He has written about 200 journal articles and holds 28 U.S. patents on acoustics, drop and bubble dynamics, collision and coalescence of drops, charged drop dynamics, containerless science, and encapsulation of living cells. His experiments were carried out in 1992 in United States Microgravity Laboratory 1 (USML-1), and in 1995 aboard USML-2.
Wang has received various honors and awards, including Space Flight Medal NASA 1985, Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal NASA 1987, Asian Pacific American Achievement Award 1989. Llewellyn J. Evans Distinguished Scientific, Engineering and Management Award 1994. Educational Award Vanderbilt University Alumni League 1996. He was awarded Asian American Engineer of the Year Distinguished Science and Technology Award, CIE-USA, National Engineers Foundation 2007. He addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1990 as part of the “Only One Earth Day”.
Wang is married to Beverly Feng (馮雪平) with two sons, Kenneth Wang and Eric Wang.