Category: research

Science Launching to Station Looks Forward and…

Some of the earliest human explorers used mechanical tools called sextants to navigate vast oceans and discover new lands. Today, high-tech tools navigate microscopic DNA to discover previously unidentified organisms. Scientists aboard the International Space Station soon will have both types of tools at their disposal.

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Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to launch its ninth contracted cargo resupply mission to the space station no earlier than May 21. Sending crucial science, supplies and cargo to the crew of six humans living and working on the orbiting laboratory.

Our Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft, and designers built a sextant into Apollo vehicles as a lost-communications navigation backup. The Sextant Navigation investigation tests use of a hand-held sextant for emergency navigation on missions in deep space as humans begin to travel farther from Earth.

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Jim Lovell (far left) demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home. 

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The remoteness and constrained resources of living in space require simple but effective processes and procedures to monitor the presence of microbial life, some of which might be harmful. Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) advances the use of sequencing processes to identify microbes aboard the space station that current methods cannot detect and to assess mutations in the microbial genome that may be due to spaceflight.  

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Genes in Space 3 performed in-flight identification of bacteria on the station for the first time. BEST takes that one step farther, identifying unknown microbial organisms using a process that sequences directly from a sample with minimal preparation, rather than with the traditional technique that requires growing a culture from the sample.

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Adding these new processes to the proven technology opens new avenues for inflight research, such as how microorganisms on the station change or adapt to spaceflight.

The investigation’s sequencing components provide important information on the station’s microbial occupants, including which organisms are present and how they respond to the spaceflight environment – insight that could help protect humans during future space exploration. Knowledge gained from BEST could also provide new ways to monitor the presence of microbes in remote locations on Earth.

Moving on to science at a scale even smaller than a microbe, the new Cold Atom Lab (CAL) facility could help answer some big questions in modern physics.

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CAL creates a temperature ten billion (Yup. BILLION) times colder than the vacuum of space, then uses lasers and magnetic forces to slow down atoms until they are almost motionless. CAL makes it possible to observe these ultra-cold atoms for much longer in the microgravity environment on the space station than would be possible on the ground.

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Results of this research could potentially lead to a number of improved technologies, including sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks used in spacecraft navigation.

A partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Space Application Services (SpaceAps), The International Commercial Experiment, or ICE Cubes Service, uses a sliding framework permanently installed on the space station and “plug-and-play” Experiment Cubes.

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The Experiment Cubes are easy to install and remove, come in different sizes and can be built with commercial off-the-shelf components, significantly reducing the cost and time to develop experiments.

ICE Cubes removes barriers that limit access to space, providing more people access to flight opportunities. Potential fields of research range from pharmaceutical development to experiments on stem cells, radiation, and microbiology, fluid sciences, and more.

For daily nerd outs, follow @ISS_Research on Twitter!

Watch the Launch + More!

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What’s On Board Briefing

Join scientists and researchers as they discuss some of the investigations that will be delivered to the station on Saturday, May 19 at 1 p.m. EDT at nasa.gov/live. Have questions? Use #askNASA

CubeSat Facebook Live

The International Space Station is often used to deploy small satellites, a low-cost way to test technology and science techniques in space. On board this time, for deployment later this summer, are three CubeSats that will help us monitor rain and snow, study weather and detect and filter radio frequency interference (RFI). 

Join us on Facebook Live on Saturday, May 19 at 3:30 p.m. EDT on the NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility page to hear from experts and ask them your questions about these small satellites. 

Pre-Launch Briefing

Tune in live at nasa.gov/live as mission managers provide an overview and status of launch operations at 11 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 20. Have questions? Use #askNASA

LIFTOFF!

Live launch coverage will begin on Monday, May 21 4:00 a.m. on NASA Television, nasa.gov/live, Facebook Live, Periscope, Twitch, Ustream and YouTube. Liftoff is slated for 4:39 a.m.

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

Celebrating the Earth (Off the Earth!)

To find the perfect perch for Earth observation research, just look up – about 240 miles up. The International Space Station serves as an optimal platform for studying our dynamic planet, where spectacular views support science.

With currently active instruments and facilities like High Definition Earth Viewing, Crew Earth Observations, Lightning Imaging Sensor, SAGE-III and Meteor, researchers on the ground are able to use the station’s unique (and useful!) vantage point to track Earth’s weather patterns, obtain images documenting changes on the planet’s surface, understand the origin of meteors falling towards Earth, and better understand the atmosphere.

The space station’s 90-minute orbit allows it to cover 90% of the Earth’s populated surfaces. That means we are able to study A LOT of that big blue marble.

Let’s talk a little about how the space station serves as a platform for Earth observation:

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Each day, as the space station passes over regions of the Earth, crew members photograph the area below as a part of the Crew Earth Observations Facility investigation, one of the longest-running experiments on the orbiting laboratory. Crew members are able to photograph large-scale weather events like the recent Hurricane Harvey from the space station’s Cupola. These little science postcards from space can be used by researchers and the public to learn more about our home planet.

Want to see a picture of your hometown from space? Search for it in the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth (GAPE).

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The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment streams live video of Earth for online viewing. This investigation not only provides hours and hours of footage of the Earth below, but also demonstrates how the technology holds up against the harsh environment of space. High school students helped design some of the cameras’ components, through the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student teams perform most of the HDEV operation. (Whoa! Check out HUNCH and STEM on Station for more opportunities for student involvement!)

Useful for weather forecasting, hurricane monitoring, and observations of large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño, RapidScat used radar pulses reflected off the ocean to measure wind speed and direction over the ocean.

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RapidScat completed its successful two-year mission, outlasting its original decommission date before suffering a power loss. Although RapidScat is no longer transmitting data back to Earth, the station hosts many other Earth-observation tools the Cyclone Intensity Measurements from the ISS (CyMISS) an experiment that seeks to develop detailed information on tropical storm structure to better estimate storm intensity, which will help government agencies to better prepare communities for impending natural disasters; and the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a previously-flown lidar instrument which measured atmospheric profiles of aerosols and clouds to better understand their properties and interactions, as well as provided data useful to improving climate change models.

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Learn more about RapidScat’s mission conclusion HERE! Take a look at CATS mission data HERE!

Watch more inspiring videos and learn about how we’re capturing the beauty of Earth HERE.

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Crew members are able to photograph large-scale weather events like the recent Hurricane Harvey from the space station’s Cupola. These little science postcards from space can be used by researchers and the public to learn more about our home planet.

Plants in space!

Future long-duration missions into the solar system will require a fresh food supply to supplement crew diets, which means growing crops in space. Growing food in such a harsh environment also teaches us a little bit about growing in harsh environments here on Earth.

Here are a few plant-based investigations currently happening aboard the orbiting laboratory:

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Veggie is a chamber on the space station that helps scientists grow, harvest and study different space crops. This experiment is called VEG-03D and they’ve been able to grow six rounds of crops so far.

SpaceX’s 13th Commercial Resupply vehicle carried many valuable items to the orbiting laboratory, including Plant Gravity Perception, an investigation that uses the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) to simulate gravity to help plants grow its roots downward, and shoots upwards. The shoots need to face upwards, towards the light, so they can absorb sunlight and nutrients. Without this, plants wouldn’t know which way to grow. Yikes!

Learn more about Plant Gravity Perception HERE!

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The Advanced Plant Habitat is a large chamber that supports commercial and fundamental plant research for at least one year of continuous use. A great feature to this habitat is that the astronauts can view the plant’s progress through a window on the door.

Whether astronauts are taking pictures of the planet or growing crops in space, all science aboard the space station plants seeds for a better life on Earth. Biology investigations directly grow our knowledge of agricultural techniques for harsh environments and imagery from space can give us a clearer idea of our planet’s health and emerging weather patterns.

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

All About That (Nucleic) Base

Studying DNA Aboard the International Space Station

What do astronauts, microbes and plants all have in common? Each relies on DNA – essentially a computer code for living things – to grow and thrive. The microscopic size of DNA, however, can create some big challenges for studying it aboard the International Space Station.

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The real question about DNA in space:
but why, tho?

Studying DNA in space could lead to a better understanding of
microgravity’s impact on living organisms and could also offer ways to identify
unknown microbes in spacecraft, humans and the deep space locations we hope to
visit one day.

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Most Earth-based
molecular research equipment is large and requires significant amounts of power
to run. Those are two characteristics that can be difficult to support aboard
the station, so previous research samples requiring DNA amplification and sequencing had to be stored in space until they
could be sent back to Earth aboard a cargo spacecraft, adding to the time
required to get results.

Fun science pro tip:
amplification means to make lots and lots of copies of a specific section of
DNA.

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However, all of
that has changed in a few short years as we’ve worked to find new solutions
for rapid in-flight molecular testing aboard the space station.

“We need[ed] to
get machines to be compact, portable, robust, and independent of much power
generation to allow for more agile testing in space,” NASA astronaut and molecular biologist Kate
Rubins said in a 2016 downlink with the National Institutes of Health.

The result? An advanced
suite of tabletop and palm-sized tools including MinION, miniPCR, and Wet-Lab-2, and more tools and processes on the
horizon.

The timeline:

Space-based DNA
testing took off in 2016 with the Biomolecule Sequencer.

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Comprised of
the MinION sequencer and a Surface Pro 3 tablet for analysis, the
tool was used to sequence DNA in space for the first time with Rubins at the helm.

In 2017, that tool was used again for Genes in Space-3, as NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson
collected and tested samples of microbial growth from around the station.

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Alongside MinION,
astronauts also tested miniPCR, a thermal cycler used to perform the polymerase
chain reaction that had been downsized to fit workbenches aboard the space
station. Together these platforms provided the identification of unknown
station microbes for the first time EVER from space.

This year, those testing capabilities translated
into an even stronger portfolio of DNA-focused research for the orbiting
laboratory’s fast-paced science schedule. For example, miniPCR is being used to
test weakened immune systems and DNA alterations as part of a student-designed
investigation known as Genes in Space-5.

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The study hopes
to reveal more about astronaut health and potential stress-related changes to
DNA created by spaceflight. Additionally, WetLab-2 facility is a suite of tools aboard the station
designed to process biological samples for real-time gene expression analysis.

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More tools for filling out the complete
molecular studies opportunities on the orbiting laboratory are heading to space
soon.

“The mini
revolution has begun,” said Sarah Wallace, our principal investigator for
the upcoming Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) investigation. “These are very small, efficient tools. We
have a nicely equipped molecular lab on station and devices ideally sized for
spaceflight.”

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BEST is
scheduled to launch to the station later this spring and will compare
swab-to-sequencer testing of unknown microbes aboard the space station against current
culture-based methods.

Fast, reliable
sequencing and identification processes could keep explorers safer on missions
into deep space. On Earth, these technologies may make genetic research more
accessible, affordable and mobile.

To learn more
about the science happening aboard the space station, follow @ISS_Research for daily updates. For opportunities to
see the space station pass over your town, check out Spot
the Station
.

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

How does a microgravity garden grow when there…

How does a microgravity garden grow when there’s no up or down? An advanced chamber, about the size of a mini-fridge, is giving us a clearer perspective of plant growth habits. Without gravity and the addition of a wide variety of light and humidity settings, the plants cultivated on the International Space Station provide a world of opportunity to study space-based agricultural cycles.

Learn more about our space garden HERE.

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

See Why Our Researchers Explore Earth’s Extrem…

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When we talk about exploration in far-flung places, you might think of space telescopes taking images of planets outside our solar system, or astronauts floating on the International Space Station. 

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But did you know our researchers travel to some of Earth’s most inaccessible and dangerous places, too? 

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Two scientists working with the ICESat-2 mission just finished a trek from the South Pole to latitude 88 south, a journey of about 450 miles. They had to travel during the Antarctic summer – the region’s warmest time, with near-constant sunshine – but the trek was still over solid ice and snow. 

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The trip lasted 14 days, and was an important part of a process known as calibration and validation. ICESat-2 will launch this fall, and the team was taking extremely precise elevation measurements that will be used to validate those taken by the satellite. 

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Sometimes our research in Earth’s remote regions helps us understand even farther-flung locations…like other planets. 

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Geologic features on Mars look very similar to islands and landforms created by volcanoes here on our home planet. 

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As hot jets of magma make their way to Earth’s surface, they create new rocks and land – a process that may have taken place on Mars and the Moon.

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In 2015, our researchers walked on newly cooled lava on the Holuhraun volcano in Iceland to take measurements of the landscape, in order to understand similar processes on other rocky bodies in our solar system.

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There may not be flowing lava in the mangrove forests in Gabon, but our researchers have to brave mosquitoes and tree roots that reach up to 15-foot high as they study carbon storage in the vegetation there.

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The scientists take some measurements from airplanes, but they also have to gather data from the ground in one our of planet’s most pristine rainforests, climbing over and around roots that can grow taller than people. They use these measurements to create a 3-D map of the ecosystem, which helps them understand how much carbon in stored in the plants. 

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You can follow our treks to Earth’s most extreme locales on our Earth Expeditions blog.

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

Science-Heavy SpaceX Dragon Headed to Space St…

Heads up: a new batch of science is headed to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon on April 2, 2018. Launching from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a Falcon 9 rocket, this fire breathing (well, kinda…) spacecraft will deliver science that studies thunderstorms on Earth, space gardening, potential pathogens in space, new ways to patch up wounds and more.

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Let’s break down some of that super cool science heading 250 miles above Earth to the orbiting laboratory:

Sprites and Elves in Space

Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) experiment will survey severe thunderstorms in Earth’s atmosphere and upper-atmospheric lightning, or transient luminous events. 

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These include sprites, flashes caused by electrical break-down in the mesosphere; the blue jet, a discharge from cloud tops upward into the stratosphere; and ELVES, concentric rings of emissions caused by an electromagnetic pulse in the ionosphere.

Here’s a graphic showing the layers of the atmosphere for reference:

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Metal Powder Fabrication

Our Sample Cartridge Assembly (MSL SCA-GEDS-German) experiment will determine underlying scientific principles for a fabrication process known as liquid phase sintering, in microgravity and Earth-gravity conditions.

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Science term of the day: Liquid phase sintering works like building a sandcastle with just-wet-enough sand; heating a powder forms interparticle bonds and formation of a liquid phase accelerates this solidification, creating a rigid structure. But in microgravity, settling of powder grains does not occur and larger pores form, creating more porous and distorted samples than Earth-based sintering. 

Sintering has many applications on Earth, including metal cutting tools, automotive engine connecting rods, and self-lubricating bearings. It has potential as a way to perform in-space fabrication and repair, such as building structures on the moon or creating replacement parts during extraterrestrial exploration.

Plants in space! It’s l[a]unch time!

Understanding how plants respond to microgravity and demonstrating reliable vegetable production in space represent important steps toward the goal of growing food for future long-duration missions. The Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (Veggie PONDS) experiment will test a passive nutrient delivery system in the station’s Veggie plant growth facility by cultivating lettuce and mizuna greens for harvest and consumption on orbit.

The PONDS design features low mass and low maintenance, requires no additional energy, and interfaces with the Veggie hardware, accommodating a variety of plant types and growth media.

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Quick Science Tip: Download the Plant Growth App to grow your own veggies in space! Apple users can download the app HERE! Android users click HERE!

Testing Materials in Space

The Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) experiment will provide a unique platform for testing how materials, coatings and components react in the harsh environment of space.

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A continuation of a previous experiment, this version’s new design eliminates the need for astronauts to perform spacewalks for these investigations. New technology includes power and data collection options and the ability to take pictures of each sample on a monthly basis, or more often if required. The testing benefits a variety of industries, including automotive, aeronautics, energy, space, and transportation.

Patching up Wounds

NanoRacks Module 74 Wound Healing (Wound Healing) experiment will test a patch containing an antimicrobial hydrogel that promotes healing of a wound while acting as a foundation for regenerating tissue. Reduced fluid motion in microgravity allows more precise analysis of the hydrogel behavior and controlled release of the antibiotic from the patch.

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For the first part of the experiment, the hydrogels will be assembled aboard the station and returned to Earth for analysis of mechanical and structural properties. The second part of the experiment assembles additional hydrogels loaded with an antibiotic. Crew members will collect real-time data on release of antibiotics from these gels into surrounding water during spaceflight. This patch could serve as a non-surgical treatment for military combat wounds and reduce sepsis, or systemic inflammation, usually caused by contamination of an open wound.

Follow @ISS_Research on Twitter for your daily dose of nerdy, spacey goodness.

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

Exploring an Asteroid Without Leaving Earth

This 45 day mission – which begins Feb. 1, 2018 – will help our researchers learn how isolation and close quarters affect individual and group behavior. This study at our Johnson Space Center prepares us for long duration space missions, like a trip to an asteroid or even to Mars.

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The Human Research Exploration Analog (HERA) that the crew members will be living in is one compact, science-making house. But unlike in a normal house, these inhabitants won’t go outside for 45 days. Their communication with the rest of planet Earth will also be very limited, and they won’t have any access to internet. So no checking social media, kids!

The only people they will talk with regularly are mission control and each other.

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The HERA XVI crew is made up of 2 men and 2 women, selected from the Johnson Space Center Test Subject Screening (TSS) pool. The crew member selection process is based on a number of criteria, including criteria similar to what is used for astronaut selection. The four would-be astronauts are:

  • Kent Kalogera
  • Jennifer Yen
  • Erin Hayward
  • Gregory Sachs

What will they be doing?

The crew are going on a simulated journey to an asteroid, a 715-day journey that we compress into 45 days. They will fly their simulated exploration vehicle around the asteroid once they arrive, conducting several site surveys before 2 of the crew members will participate in a series of virtual reality spacewalks.

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They will also be participating in a suite of research investigations and will also engage in a wide range of operational and science activities, such as growing and analyzing plants and brine shrimp, maintaining and “operating” an important life support system, exercising on a stationary bicycle or using free weights, and sharpening their skills with a robotic arm simulation. 

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During the whole mission, they will consume food produced by the Johnson Space Center Food Lab – the same food that the astronauts enjoy on the International Space Station – which means that it needs to be rehydrated or warmed in a warming oven.

This simulation means that even when communicating with mission control, there will be a delay on all communications ranging from 1 to 5 minutes each way.

A few other details:

  • The crew follows a timeline that is similar to one used for the space station crew.
  • They work 16 hours a day, Monday through Friday. This includes time for daily planning, conferences, meals and exercise.
  • Mission: February 1, 2018 – March 19, 2018
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But beware! While we do all we can to avoid crises during missions, crews need to be able to respond in the event of an emergency. The HERA crew will conduct a couple of emergency scenario simulations, including one that will require them to respond to a decrease in cabin pressure, potentially finding and repairing a leak in their spacecraft.

Throughout the mission, researchers will gather information about living in confinement, teamwork, team cohesion, mood, performance and overall well-being. The crew members will be tracked by numerous devices that each capture different types of data.

Learn more about the HERA mission HERE

Explore the HERA habitat via 360-degree videos HERE.

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

How do space plants grow? This experiment on t…

How do space plants grow? This experiment on the International Space Station hopes to find out. Space-grown plants look mostly normal, but have some distinct features compared to plants grown on Earth – most notably in the way their roots grow.

Roots evolved to grow “down” to search out nutrients and water, and on Earth, that response is predominantly governed by the force of gravity. But how does a plant know which way is down when there is no “down”? What determines the direction in which the plant’s roots should grow in space?

We are studying the molecular genetic signals that help guide plant growth in the novel environment of spaceflight, including how plants use new molecular “tools” to sense and respond to their environment when familiar signals are absent. What we learn could improve the way we grow plants in microgravity on future space missions, enabling crews to use plants for food and oxygen. This is just one of many petri plates filled with tiny plants from the Characterizing Arabidopsis Root Attractions-2 (CARA-2) that was recently harvest aboard the space station.

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

6 Ways You Are Safer Thanks to NASA Technology

By now everyone knows that we are to thank for the memory foam in your mattress and the camera in your cell
phone. (Right?
Right
.)

But our technology is often
also involved behind the scenes—in ways that make the products we use daily
safer and stronger, and in some cases, that can even save lives.

Here are some examples from this
year’s edition of Spinoff
, our yearly
roundup of “space in your life”:

Impact Testing

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What happens to your car bumper
in an accident? When does it crumple and when does it crack? And are all
bumpers coming off the assembly line created equal?

These types of questions are
incredibly important when designing a safe car, and one technology that helps almost
every U.S. automobile manufacturer find answers is something we helped develop
when we had similar questions about the Space Shuttle.

Before flying again after the
Columbia disaster in 2003, we had to be sure we understood what went wrong and how
to prevent it from ever happening again. We worked with Trilion, Inc. to
develop a system using
high-speed cameras and software
to analyze every impact—from the one that
actually happened on the Shuttle to any others we could imagine—and design
fixes.

Finding Survivors

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We’re pretty good at finding things
you can’t see with the naked eye—from distant exoplanets to water on Mars.

But there are also plenty of
uses for that know-how on Earth.

One example that has already
saved lives: locating
heartbeats under debris.

Engineers at our Jet Propulsion Laboratory adapted
technology first devised to look for gravity fluctuations to create FINDER,
which stands for Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency
Response and can detect survivors through dense rubble.

We have licensed the technology
to two companies, including R4, and it has already been used in natural
disaster responses, including after earthquakes in Nepal, Mexico City, Ecuador,
and after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Fighting Forest Fires

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As we have seen this year with
devastating wildfires in California, forest fires can spread incredibly quickly.

Knowing when to order an
evacuation, where to send firefighters, and how to make every other
decision—all amid a raging inferno—depends on having the most up-to-date
information as quickly as possible.

Using our expertise in remote
sensing and communicating from space, we helped the U.S. Forest
Service
make its process faster and more reliable, so the data from airborne
sensors gets to decision makers on the front line and at the command center in
the blink of an eye.

Safer, Germ-Free Ambulances 

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When paramedics come racing into a home, the last thing
anybody is worrying about is where the ambulance was earlier that morning. A
device we helped create ensures you won’t have to.

AMBUstat creates a fog
that sterilizes
every surface in an ambulance in minutes, so any bacteria,
viruses or other contaminants won’t linger on to infect the next patient.

This technology works its magic
through the power of atomic oxygen—the unpaired oxygen atoms that are common in
the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. We’ve had to learn about these atoms
to devise ways to ensure they won’t destroy our spacecraft or harm astronauts,
but here, we were able to use that knowledge to direct that destructive power
at germs.

Air Filters 

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Did you know the air we breathe
inside buildings is often up to 10 times more polluted than the air outdoors?

Put the air under a microscope
and it’s not pretty, but a discovery we made in the 1990s can make a big
impact.

We were working on a way to clear
a harmful chemical that accumulates around plants growing on a spacecraft, and
it turned out to also neutralize bacteria, viruses, and mold and eliminate
volatile organic compounds.

Now air purifiers using this
technology
are deployed in hospital operating rooms, restaurant kitchens,
and even major baseball stadiums to improve air quality and keep everyone
healthier. Oh, and you can buy one for your house, too.

Driverless Cars 

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Car companies are moving
full-speed ahead to build the driverless cars of the not-so-distant future. Software first created to help
self-learning robots navigate on Mars may help keep passengers and pedestrians
safer once those cars hit the road. The software creates an
artificially intelligent “brain
” for a car (or drone, for that matter) that
can automatically identify and differentiate between cars, trucks, pedestrians,
cyclists, and more, helping ensure the car doesn’t endanger any of them. 

So, now that you know a few of the spinoff technologies that we helped develop, you can look for them throughout your day. Visit our page to learn about more spinoff technologies: https://spinoff.nasa.gov

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

2017 Was One of Our Planet’s Hottest Years on …

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We just finished the second hottest year on Earth since global temperature estimates first became feasible in 1880. Although 2016 still holds the record for the warmest year, 2017 came in a close second, with average temperatures 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the mean.

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2017’s temperature record is especially noteworthy, because we didn’t have an El Niño this year. Often, the two go hand-in-hand.

El Niño is a climate phenomenon that causes warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean waters, which affect wind and weather patterns around the world, usually resulting in warmer temperatures globally. 2017 was the warmest year on record without an El Niño.

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We collect the temperature data from 6,300 weather stations and ship- and buoy-based observations around the world, and then analyze it on a monthly and yearly basis. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) do a similar analysis; we’ve been working together on temperature analyses for more than 30 years. Their analysis of this year’s temperature data tracks closely with ours.

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The 2017 temperature record is an average from around the globe, so different places on Earth experienced different amounts of warming. NOAA found that the United States, for instance, had its third hottest year on record, and many places still experienced cold winter weather.

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Other parts of the world experienced abnormally high temperatures throughout the year. Earth’s Arctic regions are warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, which brings consequences like melting polar ice and rising sea levels.

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Increasing global temperatures are the result of human activity, specifically the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. The gases trap heat inside the atmosphere, raising temperatures around the globe.  

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We combine data from our fleet of spacecraft with measurements taken on the ground and in the air to continue to understand how our climate is changing. We share this important data with partners and institutions across the U.S. and around the world to prepare and protect our home planet.

Earth’s long-term warming trend can be seen in this visualization of NASA’s global temperature record, which shows how the planet’s temperatures are changing over time, compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980.

Learn more about the 2017 Global Temperature Report HERE

Discover the ways that we are constantly monitoring our home planet HERE

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