ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.
Sep 11, 2021
Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Sept. 6 that included examining microgravity-induced stress in plants, studying changes in how humans grip and manipulate objects in space, and demonstrating a new technology for removing carbon dioxide from spacecraft. Astronauts Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) prepared for a spacewalk, scheduled to start Sunday at 8:30 a.m., to ready a truss structure for installation of Roll-Out Solar Arrays. The arrays are due to arrive on a SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission early next year.
Image above: NASA Remembers Sept. 11, 2001. Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. This photo was taken of metropolitan New York City (and other parts of New York as well as New Jersey) the morning of September 11, 2001. 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:
Plants with less stress
Animation above: NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough sets up the Advanced Plant Habitat facility for operations of APEX-08, an investigation that examines the mechanisms plants use to respond to the stress of microgravity. Animation Credit: NASA.
Plants grown under microgravity conditions typically display evidence of stress. APEX-08 examines the role of compounds known as polyamines in responses of Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress plants to microgravity. Because expression of the genes involved in polyamine metabolism remain the same in space as on the ground, plants do not appear to use polyamines to respond to stress in microgravity. APEX-08 attempts to engineer a way for them to do so. Results could provide insights into the mechanisms plants use to modulate the stress of microgravity and help identify key targets for genetic engineering of plants more suited to microgravity. During the week, crew members harvested samples of the cress for analysis.
Gripping without gravity
Humans evolved in the presence of gravity, and the way we grip and manipulate objects is based on various cues, including the weight of the object and concepts such as “up” and “down.” The ESA investigation studies how changes in these forces and cues in microgravity affect the force of a person’s grip and the movements used to manipulate objects. Results could identify potential hazards astronauts may face when they move between environments with different levels of gravity, such as landing on Mars after a lengthy voyage in space. This work also could benefit design and control of touch-based interfaces such as those used for remote control on future exploration of deep space or planets. During the week, crew members executed GRIP sessions from seated and reclining positions.
Breathing better in space
Image above: The Four Bed CO2 Scrubber is checked out by Kathi Lange, a Bastion Technologies contractor, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center prior to launch to the space station on Aug. 1, 2021. This investigation demonstrates a technology to remove carbon dioxide from a spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/MSFC.
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber demonstrates a technology to remove carbon dioxide from a spacecraft, one of three demonstrations for the space station’s Exploration Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS). It includes mechanical upgrades and an improved, longer-lasting absorbent material that reduces erosion and dust formation. Absorption beds remove water vapor and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, returning water vapor to the cabin and venting carbon dioxide overboard or diverting it to a system that converts it into water. This technology could improve the reliability and performance of carbon dioxide removal systems in future spacecraft, key to helping to maintain the health of crews and ensure mission success. It also has potential applications on Earth in environments requiring carbon dioxide removal to protect workers and equipment. Crew members connected power to the Scrubber to initiate operations during the week.
Other investigations on which the crew performed work:
- RFID Recon tests using radio frequency identification tags to identify and locate cargo on the space station using the space station’s free-flying Astrobee robots. The technology could help crew members find items more quickly and efficiently and enable more efficient packing, reducing launch mass and stowage volume.
- Changes in the liver enzymes that metabolize medicines may cause some to be less effective in space. Genes in Space-8 tests a technology to monitor the expression of the genes that control these enzymes, which could provide a better understanding of changes and help support development of new medicines to address them.
- Eklosion grows a Marigold plant in a specially designed vase that contains messages and scents from Earth. This ESA investigation gathers data on plant growth and the psychological benefits of tending the plant for the crew member.
- The ESA GRASP investigation examines how the central nervous system integrates information from the senses to coordinate hand movement and visual input, in part to determine whether gravity is a frame of reference for control of this movement.
Image above: Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works on the Ring-Sheared Drop experiment, a fluid physics study that could contribute to a better understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s as well as support the development of advanced materials. Image Credit: NASA.
- Ring Sheared Drop uses a device to create shear flow, or a difference in velocity between adjacent liquid layers, which previous research shows plays a role in the formation of protein aggregations in the brain called amyloid fibrils. Amyloids may be involved in development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and results could contribute to a better understanding of those diseases.
- Plant Habitat-04 uses the Advanced Plant Habitat to grow New Mexico Hatch Green Chili peppers. Peppers have not been grown in space before because they take a long time to germinate, grow, and develop fruit. The investigation includes microbial analysis to improve understanding of plant-microbe interactions in space, assessment of flavor and texture, and nutritional analysis.
- 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.
- 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
Space to Ground: September Spacewalks: 09/10/2021
Expedition 65: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition65/index.html
Roll-Out Solar Arrays: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-solar-arrays-to-power-nasa-s-international-space-station-research
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7635
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
Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 65.
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