ISS - International Space Station logo.
July 20, 2016
NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins. Image Credit: NASA
(Highlights: Week of July 11, 2016) - Crew members on the International Space Station prepared for the arrival of new investigations on the ninth SpaceX resupply mission, scheduled to arrive July 20, which included setting up hardware to receive cells from a human heart.
Spaceflight can cause a variety of health issues with astronauts, which may become more problematic the longer crew members stay in orbit. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins configured the Microgravity Science Glovebox life science hardware to support upcoming operations for the Effects of Microgravity on Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes (Heart Cells) investigation, which studies the human heart. More specifically, how heart muscle tissue contracts, grows and changes genetically in microgravity and how those changes vary between subjects. Understanding how heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, change in space can improve efforts for studying disease, screening drugs and conducting cell replacement therapy for future space missions.
Animation above: NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins performs maintenance and checkout of the Microgravity Science Glovebox on the International Space Station. The glovebox provides a sealed environment for crew members to perform experiments with fluids, flames or fumes. Animation Credit: NASA.
Extended stays aboard the station are becoming more common, and future crews will stay in space for even longer periods as they travel to the moon, asteroids or Mars. Living without gravity’s influence for long periods can cause negative health effects such as muscle atrophy, including potential atrophy of heart muscle. This investigation cultures heart cells on the station for a month to determine those muscle cells change on a cellular and molecular level in space, improving understanding of microgravity’s negative effects. Understanding changes to heart muscle cells benefits cardiovascular research on Earth, where heart disease is a leading cause of death in many countries.
Preparations for SpaceX-9 arrival also continued on ISS as the crew made the habitats ready for a batch of 12 mice to see how the rodents change genetically after exposure to space. The Transcriptome analysis and germ-cell development analysis of mice in the space (Mouse Epigenetics) will study the DNA of mice spending one month in space. Those mice will be returned to JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) where scientists will look for any genetic changes in the offspring of the space-flown mice. Results from this investigation will help define the long-term effects of spaceflight on genetic activity, from changes in gene expression in individual organs to changes in DNA that can be inherited later. Mice are an important model for human health, so the data from this investigation serves as a proxy for understanding how the human body changes in space, and how those changes may affect later generations.
International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA
Two separate investigations watched developing weather patterns on Earth, one that examined the development of typhoons and hurricanes; and another that looked at the planet's climate in general.
ISS-RapidScat is a space-based scatterometer -- a radar instrument measuring wind speed and direction over the ocean, used for weather forecasting, hurricane monitoring, and observations of large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño. The ISS-RapidScat instrument enhances measurements from other international scatterometers by crosschecking their data. It measured Super Typhoon Nepartak as it approached Taiwan with wind speeds in excess of 60 mph. ISS-RapidScat also took measurements of Hurricane Blas off the coast of Baja California and another tropical depression that was forming in the same area. The investigation helps take more precise measurements to develop new techniques to predict weather patterns and help communities prepare for strong storms.
Image above: NASA astronaut Jeff Williams captured this photo from the International Space Station of Super Typhoon Nepartak on July 7, 2016. The ISS-RapidScat – a space-based scatterometer attached to the exterior of the station – measured the typhoon’s wind speed and direction as it approached Taiwan with wind speeds in excess of 60 mph. The investigation takes precise measurements that could lead to new techniques to predict weather patterns and help communities prepare for storms. Image Credit: NASA.
The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) -- installed on the outside of the space station -- passed a major milestone while observing clouds over Southern Asia. The CATS light detection and ranging system measures the location, composition and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in the atmosphere using lasers. While observing India, CATS surpassed 100 billion laser pulses in orbit. A better understanding of cloud and aerosol coverage over a long period will help scientists create a better model of Earth's climate system and predict climate changes more precisely.
Progress was made on other investigations and facilities this week, including SOLAR, Vessel ID System, Dynamic Surf-3, ISS Ham, Gecko Gripper, Radi-N2, Meteor, Manufacturing Device, and 3D Printing in Zero-G.
Human research investigations conducted this week include Dose Tracker, Fine Motor Skills, Habitability, Marrow, and Space Headaches.
International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html
Effects of Microgravity on Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes (Heart Cells) investigation: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1914.html
Mouse Epigenetics study: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1992.html
Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1037.html
Vessel ID System: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/750.html
Dynamic Surf-3: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/881.html
3D Printing in Zero-G: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html
Dose Tracker: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1933.html
Fine Motor Skills: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1767.html
Space Habitability: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1772.html
Space Headaches: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/181.html
Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/Yuri Guinart-Ramirez, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 47 & 48.
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