"NASA discovered that the space station picks up electrons and ions as it flies through a thin layer of the Earth's atmosphere, said professor Charles Swenson, who had a key role in developing the sensor."
" 'It's similar to picking up a charge and getting extra charge particles on your body,' he said. 'If you touch a doorknob they jump off your body.' "
"NASA is concerned that charges on the solar panels of the space station will jump to another side of the station or even to an astronaut's suit, Swenson said."
"The suit could be damaged, or an astronaut electrocuted, if a charge jumped from the station to the metal rings on a suit."
" 'They are in a sweaty, wet garment inside the suit, not very conducive to working in a high-voltage environment,' Swenson said."
"NASA has attached plasma instruments to lower the charge. The Utah State device will monitor the instruments to ensure they are working correctly."
Now this is where things get all Mad Scientist - or should I say Crazy Engineer?
“It's going to be exciting from a science standpoint to look at this data,'' Swenson said.
I have the image in my head of Swenson peering over data saying "Gee look at the charge on that sucker... Any Buzz Aldrin up there will get their shorts turned inside out with seering hot static electricity if things didn't go right..." You know, never mind that Astronauts lives are at risk or anything, this is going to be EXCITING looking at that data...
Well... Can't say I wouldn't be any less "excited" myself...