mardi 22 décembre 2015

ISS Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist

ISS - International Space Station logo.

December 22, 2015

The International Space Station welcomed three new crew members this week who immediately set to work growing plants in space and conducting science investigations on their own bodies. Data collected from both will not only provide important understanding when planning long-duration missions into our solar system, but could help with plant and human health on Earth.

A Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, Dec. 15, carrying Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake. The three will spend the next six months living and working on board the orbiting facility.

Peake started his mission on the station by joining NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in caring for the Zinnia flower seedlings in the Veggie facility as part of the Veggie hardware validation test (Veg-01) investigation. The two refilled the plant pillows with water to keep the plants healthy, but are varying the amount of water replaced in the pillows based on the status of each individual plant.

Image above: Zinnia flowers are starting to grow in the International Space Station's Veggie facility as part of the VEG-01 investigation attempting to grow plants in the form of a growth chamber and planting "pillows,” which provide nutrients for the root system in orbit. These plants appear larger than their ground-based counterparts and scientists expect buds to form on the larger plants soon. Image Credits: NASA.

Veggie provides lighting and nutrient supply for plants in the form of a low-cost growth chamber and planting "pillows,” which provide nutrients for the root system. It supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for educational outreach, fresh food and even recreation for crew members on long-duration missions. The Veg-01 investigation is used to assess on-orbit function and performance of the Veggie facility, focusing on the growth and development of seedlings in the spaceflight environment and the composition of microbial flora on the plants and the facility. Previously, the facility has grown lettuce -- which was consumed by the crew earlier this year -- and now investigators are attempting to grow Zinnia flowers. Understanding how flowering plants grow in microgravity can be applied to growing other edible flowering plants, such as tomatoes.

Image above: The Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new crew members to the International Space Station docked with the orbiting laboratory on Dec. 15. This image taken from the station shows the newly docked Soyuz in the center with a Progress resupply vehicle already attached to the station in the upper right. Image Credit: NASA.

The Veggie pillow concept is a low mass, low maintenance, modular system that requires no additional energy beyond a special light to help plant growth. Data from this investigation could benefit agricultural practices on Earth by designing systems that use valuable resources, such as water, more efficiently.

While astronauts work to grow healthy plants, they are also trying to keep their own blood healthy. It is believed that microgravity, like long-duration bed rest on Earth, has a negative effect on astronaut bone marrow and the blood cells that are produced there. The extent of this effect and recovery from it are of interest to space research and healthcare providers on Earth.

Peake and Kelly began setup for the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) MARROW study into the effect of microgravity on human bone marrow. Fat cells and blood-producing cells share the same space in bone marrow. During prolonged bed rest on Earth, the fat cells grow at the expense of blood-producing cells. Scientists want to learn if changes in bone marrow fat in space can help explain blood changes for crew members.

Image above: ESA astronaut Tim Peake tweeted a picture of his first blood draw completed in space. The sample was taken as part of the MARROW investigation. Image Credits: Tim Peake on Twitter.

MARROW measures fat changes in the bone marrow before, and after exposure to microgravity. In addition, this investigation measures specific changes of red and white blood cell functions. Bone marrow fat is measured using magnetic resonance. Red blood cell function is measured with a breath sample analyzed with a gas chromatograph, and white blood cell function is studied through their genetic expression. Peake completed his air (breath and ambient air) and blood sampling sessions. This research produces the first data on bone marrow fat changes in microgravity, a vital organ responsible for the production of all red and white blood cells. Data from this study may lead to treatments that would enable safe human space exploration and better recovery from prolonged bed rest on Earth.

The fourth Orbital ATK resupply mission reaching the space station on Dec. 9 brought a new series of NanoRacks Module investigations -- small, encapsulated studies that are added to a rack of investigations on the station. The rack provides data transfer, power and water based on the needs of the individual investigation. The five modules installed this week contain a range of experiments developed by students at Valley Christian School in San Jose, California, and include investigations in to water purification, protein crystallization in space, plant inoculation for disease protection (Plant Inoculum), and background radiation and magnetic fields in microgravity.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly installed NanoRacks modules that arrived on the fourth Orbital ATK resupply mission in a NanoRacks Platform-2 locker in the Japanese Exploration Module (JEM). Animation Credit: NASA.

One of these investigations could impact the design of future spacecraft. The High Temperature Dispersion in Microgravity study examines how heat dissipates in space, examining various methods of accelerating heat dissipation. Thermal control is difficult in the vacuum environment of space, where temperatures can fluctuate several hundred degrees between sunlight and shade and where radiation is the only way to transfer heat. There is no natural convection in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, so fans are necessary to move heat and air around. This investigation uses resistors to heat up liquid crystal paper and measures temperatures according to the paper’s color change. Research data could change the development of future cooling and thermal regulation systems for next-generation spacecraft as students get a hands-on education about thermodynamics and the nation's space program.

Other investigations and facilities with significant activity this week included Cardio-Ox, DOSIS-3D, OASIS, MELFI, EML, and EXPRESS Racks.

Progress made on human research investigations this week included Cognition, Fine Motor Skills, Habitability, Journals, and Space Headaches.

Related links:

Veggie hardware validation test (Veg-01) investigation:

MARROW study:

High Temperature Dispersion in Microgravity study:






For more information about ISS the space laboratory, visit:

Space Station Research and Technology:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist/Jennifer Harbaugh.

Best regards,

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