The International Space Station (ISS) is not only the largest and most sophisticated orbiting research facility ever built, it is arguably the most important research facility we have. With its cutting-edge facilities and microgravity environment, the ISS is able to conduct lucrative experiments that are leading to advances in astrobiology, astronomy, medicine, biology, space weather and meteorology, and materials science.
Unfortunately, the cost of transporting experiments to and from the ISS is rather expensive and something only a handful of space agencies are currently able to do. To address this, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Tiger Corporation partnered in 2018 to create a new type of container that would cut the cost of returning samples to Earth. With the success of their initial design, JAXA and Tiger are looking to create a reusable version that will allow for regular sample returns from the ISS.
Continue reading “JAXA Using Water Bottle Technology for Sample-Return Missions From the ISS”
Humans have maintained a continuous presence in space on the International Space Station (ISS) for more than 20 years now. It is our longest-running and most comprehensive experiment in long-duration spaceflight. But the ISS is continually supplied with consumables – food, water, and oxygen – so astronauts are largely reliant on Earth. If Humanity is ever going to live and work in space long term, we’re going to have to learn to be more self-reliant – and that means growing food in space.
Continue reading “What’s the Best Way to Water Plants in Space?”
Radishes are a very divisive food – most people either love them or hate them. However, they are very easy to grow, and have now been grown in one of the most inhospitable environments of all – the International Space Station.
Continue reading “Attention Astronauts. Fresh Radishes Are Now On the Menu”
Mining is traditionally thought of as an activity that utilizes picks and shovels, or in more modern times, huge machines that can tear apart entire mountainsides in minutes. Industrial might isn’t the only way to rip apart rock though. A scalable and much more environmentally friendly way to access the materials mining seeks to extract is to use microbes. Such techniques are already widely used in terrestrial mining operations. But recently, a team led by the University of Edinburgh have launched an asteroid mining experiment using microbes on the International Space Station (ISS).
Continue reading “We’re About to Find Out How Well Biomining Works in Space”
It’s not easy living and working in space for extended periods of time. As NASA’s Twins Study illustrated, microgravity takes a toll on human physiology, which is followed by a painful transition back to normal gravity (just ask Scott Kelly!) Aside from muscle and bone degeneration, there’s diminished organ function, effects on cardiovascular health, the central nervous system, and “subtle changes” on the genetic level.
Until now, the biggest unanswered question was what the underlying cause of these physical impacts was. But after reviewing all of the data accumulated from decades of research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) – which included the Twins Study and DNA samples taken from dozens of astronauts – an international team of researchers came to the conclusion that mitochondria might be the driving force for these changes.
Continue reading “Health Issues From Spaceflight Might Originate in the Mitochondria”
In this decade and the next, humanity is poised to go to space like never before. National space agencies will be sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era, private launch services will spearhead the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), missions to the outer Solar System will search for evidence of extraterrestrial life, and crewed missions to Mars are on the horizon.
In preparation for this, a considerable amount of research is being done aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to determine how extended periods of time in space can affect living beings on the genetic level. In a recent experiment, a team of researchers from the University of Exeter conducted an analysis of worms on the ISS and noted “subtle changes” in their genetic makeup.
Continue reading “Spacefaring Worms Show How Gravity Affects Genes”
One of the biggest threats to the International Space Station (ISS) comes from micrometeoroid impacts. A small hole in the wrong place can throw the resident astronauts into a life threatening situation. Currently, there is no active program to monitor these types of impacts, though scientists think they must be common given the ubiquity of small objects in the ISS’s orbit. An interdisciplinary team from MIT hopes to provide some data to support that theory by using an extremely unusual impact sensor made almost entirely out of fabric.
Continue reading “There’s Fabric on the Space Station That Scientists Are Using to “Listen” for Space Dust Impacts”
A remarkable microbe named Deinococcus radiodurans (the name comes from the Greek deinos meaning terrible, kokkos meaning grain or berry, radius meaning radiation, and durare meaning surviving or withstanding) has survived a full year in the harsh environment of outer space aboard (but NOT inside) the International Space Station. This plucky prokaryote is affectionately known by fans as Conan the Bacterium, as seen in this classic 1990s NASA article.
The JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) ISS module Kib? has an unusual feature for spacecraft, a front porch! This exterior portion of the space station is fitted with robotic equipment to complete various experiments in outer space’s brutal conditions. One of these experiments was to expose cells of D. radiodurans for a year and then test the cells to see if they not only would survive but could reproduce effectively afterward. D. radiodurans proved to be up to the challenge, and what a challenge it was!
Continue reading “Earth’s toughest bacteria can survive unprotected in space for at least a year”
Earlier this evening (Sunday, November 15th, 2020), NASA and SpaceX achieved another historical milestone. Six months after successfully sending astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS with the Demo-2 mission, the US demonstrated the restoration of domestic launch capability by sending the fully-crewed Crew Dragon spacecraft (Resilience) on an operational mission to the ISS.
Continue reading “SpaceX’s Resilience Spacecraft has Lifted Off and is Headed for the ISS!”
On the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 21st, the crew of Expedition 63 finally returned to Earth after spending 196 days in space. It all began when NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (commander) and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin (both flight engineers) departed the International Space Station (ISS) aboard their Soyuz spacecraft at 07:32 PM EDT (04:32 PM PDT) and landed in Kazakhstan by 10:54 PM EDT (07:54 PM PDT).
Continue reading “ISS Crew Return Safely to Earth”