ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.
Aug 7, 2021
Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Aug. 2 that included testing a mobile ultrasound device and radio frequency identification tagging and tracking technology, and performance of a student robot-programming challenge.
Image above: This image shows a starry night sky and atmospheric glow blanket above the southeastern African coast as the International Space Station orbited 263 miles above. Image Credit: NASA.
The space station has been continuously inhabited by humans for 20 years, supporting many scientific breakthroughs. The orbiting lab provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space, experience that supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.
Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:
Butterfly IQ Ultrasound demonstrates use of a portable ultrasound and a mobile computing device in microgravity. This commercial off-the-shelf technology could provide important medical capabilities for future exploration missions where immediate ground support is not an option. The investigation collects crew feedback on ease of handling and quality of the ultrasound images, including image acquisition, display, and storage. This technology also has potential applications for medical care in remote and isolated settings on Earth. During the week, crew members performed ultrasounds on specific areas of the body.
Tracking down cargo
Image above: Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) configures one of the space station’s resident Astrobees. These robotic free-flyers provide a platform for a variety of investigations aboard the space station, including RFID Recon, a test of technology to identify and locate cargo, and Robo-Pro, a student software programming challenge. Image Credit: NASA.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, a high-tech form of barcodes, are electronic, do not require line-of-sight, and can respond through wireless communication. RFID Recon tests using this technology to identify tagged cargo and determine its location on the space station using a reader and antennas attached to the space station’s free-flying Astrobee robots. While losing items on a spacecraft is always undesirable, in low-Earth orbit, most things can be replaced by regular supply launches. Replacement is impractical or impossible on deep space missions, though. The technology could help crew members find items more quickly and efficiently as well as make possible more efficient packing, reducing launch mass and stowage volume. RFID also has potential benefit on Earth for automation in warehouse operations, shipping and receiving, manufacturing, health care, and other operations. Crew members configured an Astrobee for runs of the technology test during the week.
Learning to program robots
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Robo-Pro Challenge also uses Astrobees, providing students the opportunity to create software programs to control one of the robots. Crew members initiate the programs, which move Astrobee to a target and illuminate it with a laser pointer. Participants receive a score based on how their programs complete each task. The challenge teaches about space robot technology and gives them hands-on experience creating software and observing how it works. Such experience helps build critical skills needed to solve problems on Earth and could encourage students to pursue careers in the space industry or related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. During the week, crew members conducted briefings for running the challenge.
Other investigations on which the crew performed work:
- InSPACE-4 studies using magnetic fields to assemble tiny structures from colloids, or particles suspended in a liquid. Results could provide insight into how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials.
- Repository regularly collects biological specimens from crew members before, during, and after flight, archiving them to support current and future study of human physiological changes and adaptation to microgravity and spaceflight.
Image above: Hardware used for ESA EML investigations, including EML Batch 3 - CCEMLCC, which investigates the surface structure of chill-cooled industrial steel alloys. Image Credit: NASA.
- EML Batch 3 - CCEMLCC, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), uses the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML) to investigate the surface structure of chill-cooled industrial steel alloys, a class of structural metals with a variety of construction and transport applications.
- The ISS Experience is a virtual reality film series documenting life and research aboard the space station. Filmed over multiple months, it includes crew activities ranging from conducting science experiments to preparing for a spacewalk.
- Cool Flames Investigation with Gases, part of the ACME series of studies, observes chemical reactions of cool flames, which burn at lower temperatures. Nearly impossible to create in Earth’s gravity, cool flames are easily created in microgravity and studying them may improve understanding of combustion and fires on Earth.
- Food Acceptability looks at how the appeal of food changes during long-duration missions. Whether crew members like and actually eat foods directly affects caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits.
Space to Ground: Around the Bend: 08/06/2021
Expedition 65: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition65/index.html
Butterfly IQ Ultrasound: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=8211
RFID Recon: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7722
Robo-Pro Challenge: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7979
ISS National Lab: https://www.issnationallab.org/
Spot the Station: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/overview.html
International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 65.
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