lundi 13 juillet 2015

Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist

ISS - Expedition 44 Mission patch.

July 13, 2015

The International Space Station crew continued investigations into liquid crystals in microgravity while studying a small worm to learn about how organisms age during space flight, which could lead to new therapies for people with muscle atrophy problems on Earth.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly completed the Space Aging investigation, removing it from the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF). The JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) study uses the small roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans to investigate the effects of spaceflight on the aging of an organism. C. elegans is widely used as a model for larger organisms. This particular investigation records the movements of worms in both microgravity and simulated gravity to compare the health and longevity against control specimens kept on Earth. Kelly retrieved the samples from the observation experiment units, placing them in moisture bags and stowing them for a return flight.

Image above: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly works with the Space Aging investigation on the International Space Station. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency investigation uses small roundworms raised in space to compare how cells age in microgravity to how they age on Earth. Understanding the physical changes could lead to treatments to counteract muscle atrophy or osteoporosis on Earth and for astronauts on long space voyages. Image Credit: NASA.

The worms will be compared to similar batches grown in a laboratory in Japan. Understanding the molecular changes that take place in microgravity could help researchers develop treatments or therapies to counteract the physical changes associated with aging and extended bed rest, such as muscle atrophy or osteoporosis, and could help develop treatments or exercises for astronauts on long voyages.

The first liquid crystal sample of the Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS) was installed and ground scientists began their set of experiments and observations. The OASIS investigation studies the unique behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity including overall motion and the merging of crystal layers known as smectic islands. Earth scientists induced airflow in the liquid crystal matrix, successfully creating a liquid crystal bubble and generating the smectic islands.

Liquid crystals are used for display screens in televisions and clocks, but also occur in soap and cell membranes. OASIS allows detailed study of the behavior of these structures, including how microgravity affects its unique ability to act like both a liquid and a solid crystal. Data from the investigation could impact our understanding of complex fluid physics and diffusion in microgravity, leading to improved displays in space -- including heads-up displays in helmets -- or various LCD devices on Earth.

Image above: Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka talks to flight controllers on the ground while setting up the Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS) investigation on the International Space Station. Scientists hope to learn more about the unique structure of liquid crystals and results could lead to improved displays (LCDs) for use in space and on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Kelly spent the day before Independence Day replacing the damaged Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) Igniter Tip in the Igniter Base and the MDCA Fiber Arm. Once these repairs are complete, the ground team will perform checkouts and begin the next round of the Flame Extinguishment Experiment (FLEX-2). This investigation burns small droplets of fuel to study the spherical characteristics of burning fuel droplets in space. Researchers are examining how quickly fuel burns, the conditions required for soot to form, how the interactions of droplets in a fuel spray affect soot formation, flame extinction, burning rate, flame shape, size and color. Data from this investigation may help build more efficient engines that produce less pollution. Understanding these processes could lead to the production of a safer spacecraft as well as increased fuel efficiency for engines using liquid fuel on Earth.

Human research investigations on the orbiting laboratory continuing this week include Habitability, Journals, and Sleep ISS-12.

Related links:

International Space Station (ISS):

Space Aging investigation:

Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF):

Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS):

Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA):

Flame Extinguishment Experiment (FLEX-2):

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 43-44/Kristine Rainey.


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