ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.
Jan 14, 2022
Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan. 10 that included testing a new cooling technology for spacesuits, examining cellular signaling molecules, and monitoring microbes on the space station.
The space station, continuously inhabited by humans for 21 years, has supported many scientific breakthroughs. A robust microgravity laboratory with dozens of research facilities and tools, the station supports investigations spanning every major scientific discipline, conveying benefits to future space exploration and advancing basic and applied research on Earth. The orbiting lab also provides a platform for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit that includes research, satellite services, and in-space manufacturing.
Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:
Cooler, cleaner spacesuits
Image above: A simulated spacesuit setup for conducting the SERFE investigation, which examines the effect of contamination and corrosion on a spacesuit thermal control system and microgravity’s effect on the system’s thermoregulatory abilities. Image Credit: NASA.
SERFE investigates the effect of contamination and corrosion on a spacesuit thermal control system and microgravity’s effect on the system’s ability to regulate astronaut body temperature under various conditions. The technology, which uses water evaporation to remove heat, supports development of spacesuits for future exploration missions and could contribute to improvements in technology using evaporation for cooling on Earth. Results also may improve the tolerance of spacesuits and cooling systems on Earth to contamination and corrosion. Crew members extracted water from the SERFE hardware for post-flight analysis on the ground.
A different kind of cellular signal
Cytoskeleton, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines whether microgravity affects the function of cellular signaling molecules known as RhoGTPases. These proteins operate as "molecular switches" and are involved in control of programmed cell death, gene expression, and organization of the cytoskeleton (the network of protein filaments and tubules that give cells their shape). Results could expand knowledge about cellular function in space and on Earth and contribute to clinical medical research. Crew members transferred experiment culture chambers to the Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) and performed the third and final round of operations during the week.
Image above: A sample taken for Microbial Tracking-3 floats in the space station. This investigation seeks to characterize the types of microbial populations present on board. Image Credit: NASA.
Crew members gathered several consecutive days of samples for the Microbial Tracking-3 investigation, which continues a series focused on ongoing monitoring of bacteria and fungi present on the space station, especially their pathogenicity (ability to cause disease) and antibiotic resistance. Identifying and characterizing these microbes contributes to the NASA GeneLab, a database of microbes associated with closed habitation that seeks to predict those that may pose a threat to crew health. On Earth, antibiotic resistance has become a world-wide health concern, and this investigation could yield important discoveries related to its development.
Other investigations involving the crew:
Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei works on the Plant Habitat-05 investigation, which studies gene expression in cotton calluses, masses of identical cells that can be programmed to develop into specific plant parts. Image Credit: NASA.
- Plant Habitat-05 studies gene expression in several types of cotton calluses, masses of identical cells that can be programmed to develop into specific plant parts, much like stem cells in mammals. Results could provide a better understanding of resistance to genetic engineering and identify ways to engineer specific qualities into cotton.
- Ring Sheared Drop uses a special device to contain liquids using surface tension rather than a solid container, allowing researchers to study protein aggregations called amyloid fibrils, which may be a factor in development of some neurological diseases. The device also could benefit other experiments, including research on pharmaceuticals.
- ESA’s AstroPi uses two computers equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras to support an education program for schools across Europe that allows students to compete on a number of thematic software and hardware challenges.
- Advanced Nano Step from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) monitors, records, and analyzes how specific impurities affect the quality of protein crystals grown in space. Results could advance capabilities for research on and production of materials and drugs in space, and may prove useful for crystallization trials conducted on Earth.
- Vascular Aging, an investigation by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), analyzes changes in the arteries of crew members. Results could point to mechanisms for reducing cardiovascular risk and help identify and detect blood biomarkers that predict early signs of cardiovascular aging.
- EasyMotion from ESA tests a suit worn during pre- and postflight exercise that provides Electro-Myo-Stimulation (EMS). It could save crew time and improve outcomes of inflight exercise on future space missions and in healthy populations on Earth.
- EHS BioMole Facility demonstrates technology for monitoring the microbial environment aboard the station, an important capability for future missions that cannot return samples to Earth for analysis. Such technology has potential for monitoring microbial environments on Earth, such as water supplies in remote areas.
- MVP Plant-01 examines shoot and root development in plants and the molecular mechanisms behind how plants sense and adapt to changes in their environment. Results could contribute to the design of plants better able to withstand adverse environmental conditions, including long-duration spaceflight.
- NutrISS, an investigation from ESA, periodically assesses body composition and measures long-term energy balance modification over time. Results may improve understanding of the mechanisms behind body composition changes during spaceflight and help lead to ways to mitigate any negative effects of those changes.
Space to Ground: Spacewalks and Research: 01/14/2022
Expedition 66: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition66/index.html
Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=7676
Microbial Tracking-3: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=8333
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 66.