Space Station Researchimage of an astronaut working during a spacewalkJan 27, 2023Space Station Science Highlights:
Week of January 23, 2023image of an astronaut working with an experimentNASA astronaut Josh Cassada works on BioNutrients-2, an investigation that uses genetically engineered microbes to produce on-demand nutrients and potentially other compounds and pharmaceuticals in space.
NASAimage of an astronaut working during a spacewalkNASA astronaut Nicole Mann performs her first spacewalk with JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata (out of frame). The pair installed a modification kit on the International Space Station’s starboard truss structure to enable the future addition of roll-out solar arrays, which expand station power to support operations and scientific
NASAimage of tomato plants growing in the plant habitatThese tomato plants grown on the International Space Station for the Veg-05 experiment are beginning to flower. The investigation examines fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits of the plants.Credits: NASACrew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan 23 that included studying the organization of particles in fluids, monitoring how space changes muscle tone, and examining the formation of plasma crystals.
Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place aboard the orbiting lab:
Controlling particles in fluids
Particle Vibration, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), studies the self-organization mechanisms of particles in fluids. Vibration could serve as a new technique to manipulate dispersed particles and, unlike using magnetic or electric fields, would not be limited to electrically conductive or active liquids and particles. Results could improve basic understanding of fluids with dispersed solid particles, which have applications in space such as in spacecraft subsystems, cooling systems for heat exchangers, and solar energy collectors and on Earth in cooling systems, solar energy collectors, nuclear reactors, and electronics. A better understanding of dispersed particle behavior even could shed light on the formation of asteroids and planets, which involved mixtures of gas and solid matter in primordial nebulae. During the week, crew members collected and downlinked images for experiment runs. The ground team uses these images to verify that the investigation is operating as expected and to adjust parameters as necessary.
The ESA investigation Myotones monitors changes in the properties of muscles before, during, and after spaceflight to determine the magnitude of muscle deconditioning during flight and recovery once back on the ground. The experiment complements current onboard human health and fitness monitoring and could improve the science team’s understanding of the fundamental principles of the human resting muscle tone on Earth and in space. That understanding could support development of better countermeasures for future space missions as well as alternative rehabilitation treatments for those experiencing the effects of aging and restricted mobility on Earth. Crew members conducted measurements for the investigation during the week.
Peering at plasma particles
A collaboration between ESA and State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS, PK-4 studies complex plasmas or low temperature gaseous mixtures of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. Plasmas are found throughout the universe, from the interstellar medium to the heat shields of spacecraft re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Understanding formation of plasma
crystals in microgravity could lead to new research methods and improved spacecraft designs and lead to advances in industries on Earth that use plasmas. During the week, crew members caught clouds of particles inside the PK-4 chamber as part of campaign 15 experiment operations, then packed hard drives for return to Earth and switched the chamber gas from Neon to Argon.
Other investigations involving the crew:
Veg-05 uses the station’s Veggie facility to grow dwarf tomatoes and examine the effect of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production as well as microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits. Growing plants to provide fresh food and enhance the overall living experience for crew members supports future long-duration missions.The Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) investigation tested a prototype of new solar arrays, ISS ROSAs (iROSAs), now being installed on the space station. Once installation is complete, the new arrays are expected to increase the power available for station operations and scientific activities by 20 to 30%.Sphere Camera-1, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, evaluates the performance of an ultra-high-resolution camera in microgravity. Results could support design and development of cameras with greater resolution, detail, and sharpness for imaging needs on future exploration missions, including to the Moon and Mars.Plant Habitat-03 assesses whether epigenetic adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation. Results could provide insight into how to grow repeated generations of crops to provide food and other services on future space missions.BioNutrients-2 tests an on-demand system to produce specific quantities of key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage. In-flight production of vitamins and other nutrients could help maintain the health of crew members on these missions while reducing launch mass and volume requirements.The space station, a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools, has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results realized from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station. Access the publication and related materials online.