New Research Activated as Biological Samples Packed for Earth Return Aboard Dragon

ISS – Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 20, 2018

The outside of the International Space Station is a harsh environment but scientists are taking advantage of the extreme conditions to conduct advanced space research. Astronauts are also researching what happens to a variety of organisms living for months at a time inside a spacecraft as NASA prepares for longer missions farther out into space.

Image above: NASA astronaut Scott Tingle tends to plants grown inside the VEGGIE facility in support of space botany research. Image Credit: NASA.

The fifth and final external materials experiment (MISSE) delivered by the latest SpaceX Dragon resupply ship was activated outside the orbital lab today. Robotics engineers operating the Canadarm2 and Dextre extracted and installed the MISSE canisters one by one from Dragon’s trunk to areas on the station. The canisters were then remotely opened exposing a variety of materials to the vacuum of space to help engineers design safer and stronger spacecraft systems.

Back inside the orbital lab, Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA harvested and photographed plants for the APEX-06 study today. The botanical samples collected from the VEGGIE facility were later processed and stowed in a science freezer for return to Earth inside the Dragon cargo craft. They will be analyzed after being quickly shipped to scientists at NASA and the University of Wisconsin.

NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel once again partnered up and collected their blood and urine samples today for more biomedical experiments. Researchers are analyzing the samples as they continuously study how the human body adapts to extended periods of weightlessness. Results will help doctors provide therapies to maintain the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

Image above: “The Enchanted Islands of #Ecuador – the Galápagos,” were photographed by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, currently aboard the International Space Station with the Expedition 55 crew. This view from more than 200 miles above our Earth shows the cloud-covered Galápagos Islands and sunglint in the waters off the coast of Ecuador on April 13, 2018, as the station orbited above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA/Ricky Arnold.

Mice are also being observed on the space station so scientists can detect the chemical signals that lead to weakened bones and muscles. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai drew more blood samples from the rodents today and wrapped up a week-long run of the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. The blood samples will be processed in a centrifuge, stowed in biological science freezer then returned to Earth inside Dragon for analysis on Earth.

Related links:

MISSE: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/features/SpaceX_Dragon_Brings_Material_Samples_to_ISS.html

APEX-06: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7524

VEGGIE facility: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=374

SpaceX Dragon: https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

Expedition 55: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition55/index.html

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), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/Yvette Smith.

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