Category: astronaut

Human Research, Robotic Refueling, Crystallogr…

New
science is headed to the International Space Station aboard
the SpaceX Dragon.

Investigations
on this flight include a test of robotic technology for refueling spacecraft, a
project to map the world’s forests and two student studies inspired by Marvel’s
“Guardians of the Galaxy” series.

Learn
more about the science heading into low-Earth orbit:

The
forest is strong with this one: GEDI studies Earth’s forests in 3D

The Global Ecosystem
Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) is an instrument to measure and map Earth’s
tropical and temperate forests in 3D.

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The Jedi knights may help
protect a galaxy far, far away, but our GEDI
will help us study and understand forest changes right here on Earth.

Robotic
refueling in space

What’s cooler than cool? Cryogenic propellants,
or ice-cold spacecraft fuel! Our Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) will demonstrate technologies for storing and
transferring these special liquids. By establishing ways to replenish this fuel
supply in space, RRM3 could help spacecraft live
longer and journey farther
.

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The mission’s techniques could even be applied
to potential lunar gas stations at the Moon, or refueling
rockets departing from Mars.

Staying
strong in space

The
Molecular Muscle investigation examines the
molecular causes of muscle abnormalities from spaceflight in C. elgans, a
roundworm and model organism.

This
study could give researchers a better understanding of why muscles deteriorate
in microgravity so they can improve methods to help crew members maintain their
strength in space.

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Investigation
studies space-grown crystals for protection against radiation

Perfect Crystals is a study to learn more about an
antioxidant protein called manganese superoxide dismutase that protects the
body from the effects of radiation and some harmful chemicals.

The
station’s microgravity environment allows researchers to grow more perfectly
ordered crystals of the proteins. These crystals are brought back to Earth and
studied in detail to learn more about how the manganese superoxide dismutase
works. Understanding how this protein functions may aid researchers in
developing techniques to reduce the threat of radiation exposure to astronauts
as well as prevent and treat some kinds of cancers on Earth.

Satellite
deployment reaching new heights with SlingShot

SlingShot
is a new, cost-effective commercial satellite deployment system that will be
tested for the first time.

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SlingShot
hardware, two small CubeSats, and a hosted payload will be carried to the
station inside SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and installed on a Cygnus spacecraft
already docked to the orbiting laboratory. Later, Cygnus will depart station
and fly to a pre-determined altitude to release the satellites and interact
with the hosted payload.

Investigation
studies accelerated aging in microgravity

Spaceflight
appears to accelerate aging in both humans and mice. Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) is a study to understand the physiology of
aging and the role it plays on the progression of disease in humans. This
investigation could provide a better understanding of how aging changes the
body, which may lead to new therapies for related conditions experienced by
astronauts in space and people on Earth.

Guardians
of the space station: Student contest flies to orbiting lab

The
MARVEL ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Space Station Challenge is a joint project between
the U.S. National Laboratory and Marvel Entertainment featuring two winning
experiments from a contest for American teenage students. For the contest,
students were asked to submit microgravity experiment concepts that related to
the Rocket and Groot characters from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic
book series.

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Team
Rocket: Staying Healthy in Space

If
an astronaut suffers a broken tooth or lost filling in space, they need a
reliable and easy way to fix it. This experiment investigates how well a dental
glue activated by ultraviolet light would work in microgravity. Researchers
will evaluate the use of the glue by treating simulated broken teeth and
testing them aboard the station.

Team
Groot: Aeroponic Farming in Microgravity

This
experiment explores an alternative method for watering plants in the absence of
gravity using a misting device to deliver water to the plant roots and an air
pump to blow excess water away. Results from this experiment may enable humans
to grow fruits and vegetables in microgravity, and eliminate a major obstacle
for long-term spaceflight.

These
investigation join hundreds of others currently happening aboard the station.
For more info, follow @ISS_Research!

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“Hi, Mom!”

How Do You Like Your Turkey? Home-Cooked or Ro…

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It’s Thanksgiving, which means that you’re probably thinking about food right now. And here at NASA, we have to think about food very seriously when we explore space!

Astronauts Need to Eat, Too!

Like for you on Earth, nutrition plays a key role in maintaining the health and optimal performance of the astronauts. The Space Food Systems team is required to meet the nutritional needs of each crew member while adhering to the requirements of limited storage space, limited preparation options, and the difficulties of eating without gravity. 

Good food is necessary being comfortable on a mission a long way from home — especially for crewmembers who are on board for many months at a time. It’s important that the astronauts like the food they’re eating everyday, even given the preparation constraints!

Astronaut Food Has Not Always Been Appetizing

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The early space programs were groundbreaking in a lot of ways — but not when it came to food. Like today, crumbs had to be prevented from scattering in microgravity and interfering with the instruments. Mercury astronauts had to endure bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders, and semi-liquids stuffed into aluminum tubes. The freeze-dried food were hard to rehydrate, squeezing the tubes was understandable unappetizing, and the food was generally considered to be, like spaceflight, a test of endurance.

However, over the years, packaging improved, which in turn enhanced food quality and choices. The Apollo astronauts were the first to have hot water, which made rehydrating foods easier and improved the food’s taste. And even the Space Shuttle astronauts had opportunities to design their own menus and choose foods commercially available on grocery store shelves. 

 The Wonders of Modern Space Food

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Nowadays, astronauts on the International Space Station have the opportunity to sample a variety of foods and beverages prepared by the Space Food Systems team and decide which ones they prefer. They can add water to rehydratable products or eat products that are ready to eat off the shelf.

All the cooking and preparation has been done for them ahead of time because 1) they don’t have room for a kitchen to cook on the space station 2) they don’t have time to cook! The crewmembers are extremely occupied with station maintenance as well as scientific research on board, so meal times have to be streamlined as much as possible. 

Instead of going grocery shopping, bulk overwrap bags (BOBs!) are packed into cargo transfer bags for delivery to the space station. Meal based packaging allows the astronauts to have entrees, side dishes, snacks, and desserts to choose from. 

Taste in Space

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The perception of taste changes in space. In microgravity, astronauts experience a fluid shift in their bodies, so the sensation is similar to eating with a headcold. The taste is muted so crewmembers prefer spicy foods or food with condiments to enhance the flavor. 

We Can’t Buy Groceries, But We Can Grow Food!

Growing plants aboard the space station provides a unique opportunity to study how plants adapt to microgravity. Plants may serve as a food source for long term missions, so it’s critical to understand how spaceflight affects plant growth. Plus, having fresh food available in space can have a positive impact on astronauts’ moods!

Since 2002, the Lada greenhouse has been used to perform almost continuous plant growth experiments on the station. We have grown a vast variety of plants, including thale cress, swiss chard, cabbage, lettuce, and mizuna. 

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And in 2015, Expedition 44 members became the first American astronauts to eat plants grown in space when they munched on their harvest of Red Romaine. 

Earthlings Can Eat Space Food, Too

To give you a clear idea of how diverse the selection is for astronauts on board the space station, two earthlings gave the astronaut menu a try for a full week. Besides mentioning once that hot sauce was needed, they fared pretty well! (The shrimp cocktail was a favorite.)

Space Technology for Food on Earth

Not only has our space food improved, but so has our ability measure food production on Earth. Weather that is too dry, too wet, too hot, or too cool can strongly affect a farmer’s ability to grow crops. We collaborated with the United States Agency for International Development to create a system for crop yield prediction based on satellite data: the GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning.

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This map measures the health, or “greenness” of vegetation based on how much red or near-infrared light the leaves reflect. Healthy vegetation reflects more infrared light and less visible light than stressed vegetation. As you can see from the map, a severe drought spread across southern Mexico to Panama in June to August of this year. 

The Crop Monitor compiles different types of crop condition indicators — such as temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture — and shares them with 14 national and international partners to inform relief efforts.

Thanksgiving in Space 

Space food has certainly come a long way from semi-liquids squeezed into aluminum tubes! This year, Expedition 57 crewmembers Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor are looking forward to enjoying a Thanksgiving meal that probably sounds pretty familiar to you: turkey, stuffing, candied yams, and even spicy pound cakes!

Hungry for More?

If you can’t get enough of space food, tune into this episode of “Houston, We Have a Podcast” and explore the delicious science of astronaut mealtime with Takiyah Sirmons. 

And whether you’re eating like a king or an astronaut, we wish everybody a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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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.

For daily updates, follow @ISS_Research.

Make sure
to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space:
http://nasa.tumblr.com

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