Six Science-y Shipments Sent to the Space Stat…

Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit
to the International
Space Station
at 4:01 a.m. EST on Nov. 17 from Wallops Flight
Facility
in Virginia. Cygnus launched on an Antares rocket carrying crew
supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station.
The spacecraft is named after NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy officer John Young, who
walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle
mission. Throughout his lifetime, Young logged 835 hours in space over the course of six missions.

Antares launched the S.S. John Young from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A on Wallops
Island, carrying tons of cargo, including scientific investigations that will
study 3D printing and recycling, cement solidification, and crystals that may
fight Parkinson’s disease.

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Here’s a look at six science-y experiments and research this mission will deliver to the space station.

1. 3D printing and recycling

Refabricator demonstrates an integrated 3D printer
and recycler for the first time aboard the space station.

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It
recycles waste plastic materials into high-quality 3D-printer filament, which
could enable sustainable fabrication, repair, and recycling on long-duration
space missions.

2. Sensory input in microgravity

Changes
in sensory input in microgravity may be misinterpreted and cause a person to
make errors in estimation of velocity, distance or orientation.

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VECTION,
a Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
investigation, examines this effect as well as whether people adapt to altered
sensory input on long-duration missions and how that adaptation changes upon
return to Earth.

3. Solidifying cement in space

The
MVP-Cell
05
investigation uses a centrifuge to provide a variable gravity environment to
study the complex process of cement solidification, a step toward eventually
making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.

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4. From stardust to solar systems

Much
of the universe was created when dust from star-based processes clumped into
intermediate-sized particles and eventually became planets, moons and other
objects. Many questions remain as to just how this worked, though.

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The
EXCISS investigation seeks
answers by simulating the high-energy, low gravity conditions that were present
during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially
formulated dust with an electrical current, then study the shape and texture of
pellets formed.

5. Growing crystals to fight
Parkinson’s disease

The
CASIS
PCG-16
investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, Leucine-rich
repeat kinase 2, or LRRK2, in microgravity for analysis back on Earth.

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This
protein is implicated in development of Parkinson’s disease, and defining its
shape and morphology may help scientists better understand the pathology of the
disease and develop therapies to treat it. Crystals of LRRK2 grown in gravity are
too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of
this research.

6. Better
gas separation membranes

Membranes represent one of the most
energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for separating and removing
carbon dioxide from waste gases, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEMSICA tests membranes made from particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) with pores
100 nanometers or smaller. Producing these membranes in microgravity may
resolve some of the challenges of their manufacture on Earth and lead to
development of lower-cost, more durable membranes that use less energy. The
technology ultimately may help reduce the harmful effects of CO2 emissions on
the planet.

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