APR 19, 2015 12:13 PM PDT

Science Gear is Priority Cargo for the ISS

SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule brought more than just a fancy coffee machine to the International Space Station in its most recent launch. On board the April 14th launch was a cargo of science and medical gear for use in year-long experiments on the ISS crew.
The Space-X supply ship nears the ISS
Some of this equipment will help NASA examine the nature of eye problems that that several astronauts have suffered from during and after long-term missions. Scientists suspect these issues may be caused by an increased buildup of fluid in the head in microgravity conditions, but more study is needed to confirm the idea, said Marshall Porterfield, NASA's life and physical sciences director

Other payloads aboard Dragon will support genetic comparisons between the now world famous crew member and one-year ISS resident, Scott Kelly and his twin brother, Mark, who is being studied on Earth as a control.

"It's allowing us to make a leap from [missions of] six months to a year and project out what we need to do to protect humans over longer periods of time," Porterfield said during a prelaunch news conference Sunday (April 12).

Dragon's cargo also includes 20 mice and many other items.?The rodents are flying as part of an experiment that will look at how long periods of time spent in space can affect bone growth, density and strength. Space station crewmembers will X-ray the mice and dissect them, according to NASA officials.

The large amount of gear required for the science experiments has pushed other equipment off to later missions, underscoring NASA's priority for science and medical discoveries in a space environment. Dragon was originally supposed to fly parts to change a docking port to prepare the orbiting lab for commercial vehicles, but that payload was shifted to a later flight to give astronauts more time for science, said Kirt Costello, deputy chief scientist for the International Space Station.

"This [rodent] investigation requires a significant amount of crew time," Costello said during another news conference on Sunday (April 13) "We did have plans to fly a payload in the trunk; that payload would have taken a significant amount of time to install on orbit as our international docking adaptor system."

Dragon's cargo also includes experiments designed to improve medicine and robotics. One is a crystal-growth experimental study from Paul Reichert, a scientist at Merck Research Laboratories in New Jersey who previously flew protein-growth experiments on 11 space shuttle missions.

Reichert said he hopes this process will create larger and more uniform crystals for a class of drugs called biologics. Currently, many of these kinds of drugs can only be delivered by IV at a hospital, increasing costs and stay time for patients. Reichert's aim is to make biologics that could be more easily delivered to patients either by a one time injection at home, or in a doctor's office, eliminating the needs for hospital stays.

"That would have a significant impact on the ease of administration and the comfort of the patients," he said.

Dragon is also flying a synthetic muscle (an electroactive polymer) to the station, which will remain there for up to 80 days to test its resistance to radiation. This kind of synthetic muscle can hopefully be used in robots, making their movements and abilities more human-like, but first NASA wants to compare how it functions with what they already know about metal robotic movements.
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Develop Novel Technique to Locate Baby Planets
Astronomers Develop Novel Technique to Locate Baby Planets
In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, an international team of researchers have created a no ...
OCT 11, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Planetary Science and Finding Your Career Path with Dr. Alyssa Rhoden | The Life of Her Mind Ep. 2
Planetary Science and Finding Your Career Path with Dr. Alyssa Rhoden | The Life of Her Mind Ep. 2
The Life of Her Mind is dedicated to learning about how these women think — how they think about their careers, di ...
OCT 16, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA's Chandra X-ray Telescope Provides a New Perspective for James Webb Space Telescopes Images
NASA's Chandra X-ray Telescope Provides a New Perspective for James Webb Space Telescopes Images
In the summer of 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) released its very first images to the public. Now, ...
DEC 02, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Hunt For Dark Matter Gets Good News
Hunt For Dark Matter Gets Good News
In a recent study published in Physical Review Letters, an international team of researchers led by the Albert Einstein ...
NOV 21, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Neutron Star Structure Could be Similar to Chocolate Pralines
Neutron Star Structure Could be Similar to Chocolate Pralines
A group of scientists at the Goethe University Frankfurt recently published two articles about their work on determining ...
JAN 04, 2023
Space & Astronomy
Solar System Wonders: Mars Polar Caps
Solar System Wonders: Mars Polar Caps
It turns out Earth isn’t the only planet with polar caps, as Mars has both a north and south polar cap, but instea ...
Loading Comments...