ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.
Sept. 7, 2019
Recent scientific studies conducted on the International Space Station include growing crystals and moss in space and studying how microgravity affects fluids in the body. The Expedition 60 crew enjoyed time off for the Labor Day holiday and also began preparing for the arrival of a JAXA H-II Transfer Vehicle, HTV-8, currently scheduled for Sept. 14. The space station provides a platform for long-duration research on how living in microgravity affects the human body and testing technologies for traveling farther into deep space, which supports Artemis, NASA’s plans to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.
Here are details on some of the science conducted on the orbiting laboratory during the week of Sept. 2:
Drawing a better bull’s-eye on cancer proteins
The crew took microscopic images of solutions and crystals in the wells of experiment growth plates for the Microgravity Crystals investigation. This experiment crystallizes a membrane protein that is integral to tumor growth and cancer survival. Efforts to crystallize this protein on Earth have yielded unsatisfactory results, but previous research indicates that crystals grow more successfully on the space station. Large, well-ordered protein crystals can provide detailed knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of proteins. Results may support development of cancer treatments that more effectively home in on their intended target, producing fewer side effects.
Measuring how fluid shifts affect vision and eye structure
Image above: This Chibis hardware creates and measures Lower Body Negative Pressure as part of the Fluid Shifts experiment. Image Credit: NASA.
The crew performed the second of three weeks of measurements and ultrasound scans for Fluid Shifts. This investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower to the upper body and in or out of cells and blood vessels in microgravity in an effort to determine how these shifts affect fluid pressure in the head, vision and eye structures. The experiment also measures response to a technique of subjecting the lower half of the subject’s body to slightly lower pressure, which creates enough difference in pressure to draw fluid from the head toward the feet. This procedure, called lower body negative pressure, could help mitigate some of the effects of space flight-induced fluid shifts. Astronauts can experience vision and eye changes during and after long-duration space flight and study results may lead to development of ways to prevent these effects.
Growing tiny plants in space
Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague works on hardware for Space Moss, an investigation that grows mosses aboard the space station to determine how microgravity affects their growth, development and other features. Image Credit: NASA.
The crew initiated the third run of Space Moss, inserting it into the Plant Experiment unit and attaching the unit to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) incubator. This investigation determines how microgravity affects the growth, development and other features of moss. Tiny plants without roots, mosses need only a small area for growth, an advantage for their potential use in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars.
Other investigations on which the crew performed work:
- Rodent Research-17 (RR-17) uses young and old mice to evaluate the physiological, cellular and molecular effects of microgravity and spaceflight.
Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the rodent research facility Habitat unit, which can house as many as 10 mice for up to 90 days, making possible investigations such as Rodent Research-17. Image Credit: NASA.
- The Micro-15 investigation examines the mechanisms behind observations that microgravity affects stem cell differentiation and proliferation and gene expression using three-dimensional cultures of mammalian stem cells.
- The ISS Experience creates virtual reality videos from footage covering different aspects of crew life, execution of science and the international partnerships involved on the space station.
- BEST studies the use of DNA sequencing to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and to understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living in space. It uses a swab-to-sequencer process that does not require culturing of organisms.
- Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases.
- Probiotics studies whether beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, can improve the intestinal microbiota of crew members and perhaps help improve their immune function on long-duration space missions.
- Standard Measures captures a consistent and simple set of measures from crew members throughout the ISS Program to characterize adaptive responses to and risks of living in space.
Space to Ground: Category 5: 09/06/2019
Expedition 60: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition60/index.html
Microgravity Crystals: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7977
Fluid Shifts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1126
Space Moss: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7892
Spot the Station: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html
International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Images (mentioned), Video (NASA9, Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 60.
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