Space Station Science Highlights: Week of April 22, 2019

ISS – Expedition 59 Mission patch.

April 29, 2019

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station installed a variety of hardware and set up science experiments that arrived via a Cygnus resupply ship last week. Crew members also collected samples for investigations.

Here are details on some of the scientific activities the Expedition 59 crew members conducted the week of April 22:

Testing the Response of New Materials to the Space Environment

Image above: NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Nick Hague install cartridges into the Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) in the JEM Airlock. Alpha Space�s facility provides a unique platform that is available for the private sector, as well as other government entities, to conduct applied materials testing or technical demonstrations. Image Credit: NASA.

The Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) platform provides the ability to test materials, coatings, and components or other larger experiments in the harsh environment of space, which is virtually impossible to do on Earth. Testing in low-Earth orbit (LEO) allows investigators to determine how materials react to exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), atomic oxygen (AO), ionizing radiation, ultrahigh vacuum (UHV), charged particles, thermal cycles, electromagnetic radiation, and micro-meteoroids in the LEO environment. Crewmembers installed three new MISSE Sample Containers (MSCs) onto the MISSE Transfer Tray (MTT) in the Japanese Equipment Module (JEM) airlock for robotic attachment to the MISSE-FF facility on the outside of the space station.

Image above: Flying over North Atlantic Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27’664 Km/h, altitude: 405,64 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam’s from ISS on April 29, 2019 at 11:29 UTC. Image Credits: Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Investigating microbe adaptation to microgravity

The Experimental Evolution of Bacillus subtilis Populations in Space: MVP-02 investigation seeks to understand how organisms adapt to the space environment, an important component of future space exploration. Microbes may play fundamental roles in the development of biologically-based closed-loop regenerative life support, in-situ resource utilization, and have extensive interactions with human and plant hosts. Further, microbes may pose challenges through virulence and contamination and as nuisance factors such as biofilms in water supply and ventilation systems.  Last week, the crew installed the MVP-02 platform onto Express Rack 4 and took documentation photos.

Manufacturing fiber optic cable in microgravity

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques shown in front of the Space Fibers facility. Space Fibers evaluates methods and materials for producing fiber optic cable in microgravity, producing improved quality fiber over what can be manufactured on the ground. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew also installed a sample cartridge into the Space Fibers facility for a run initiated by the ground team. Space Fibers evaluates a method for producing fiber optic cable from a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium and aluminum, called ZBLAN, in space. ZBLAN glass, theoretically one hundred times more transparent than silica-based glass, is exceptional for fiber optics. However, when it is produced on Earth, imperfections degrade its performance. Microgravity suppresses two mechanisms that commonly degrade this fiber, and previous studies showed improved properties in ZBLAN fiber drawn in microgravity compared to that fabricated on the ground.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

– Rodent Research-12 (RR-12) examines the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory using a mouse model: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7868

Image above: SS crew member installs an Experiment Cube in the International Commercial Experiment Cubes (ICE Cube) facility. This facility offers flexibility to host many different experiments for research, technology demonstration or educational objectives. Image Credit: NASA.

– International Commercial Experiment Cubes (ICE Cubes): The crew installed Experiment Cubes in the ICE Cube facility, is an experiment platform that offers flexibility to host many different experiments for research, technology demonstration or educational objectives: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=7607

– The SUBSA investigation crystallizes melts in microgravity to improve understanding of solidification phenomena and crystal production: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=308

– Fluid Shifts characterizes fluid redistribution and compartmentalization in the body associated with long-duration space flight and correlates these findings with vision changes and other elements of the Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular (SANS) syndrome.  Understanding effects of these changes helps prepare for long duration missions such as the planned journey to Mars: https://www.nasa.gov/content/fluid-shifts-study-advances-journey-to-mars

– Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7562

– RADI-N2, a Canadian Space Agency investigation, characterizes the ISS neutron environment and the risk posed to the crew members� health in order to develop advanced protective measures for future spaceflight. Bubble detectors used in this investigation are designed detect neutrons and ignore other radiation: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=874