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Pioneering Space Botany and Biology: Shaping Health on Earth and Beyond

In the foreground, the golden cymbal-shaped solar array of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is partially illuminated by the Sun and shadowed by other exterior station hardware. Below it, the teal waters of the Bahamas create a contrasting backdrop. The International Space Station was orbiting 259 miles above as this image was taken. Credit: NASA

Space botany, human research, and bioprinting were the dominant science topics aboard the International Space StationThe International Space Station (ISS) is a large spacecraft in orbit around the Earth that serves as a research laboratory and spaceport for international collaboration in space exploration. It was launched in 1998 and has been continuously occupied by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world since 2000. The ISS is a joint project of five space agencies: NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). It orbits the Earth at an altitude of approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles), and provides a unique platform for scientific research, technological development, and human space exploration.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, December 7. The Expedition 70 septet also focused on lab hardware and cargo operations throughout the day.

Space Agriculture

Growing plants in space is critical as astronauts prepare for longer missions farther away from Earth. Space agriculture may help feed crews and provide a cleaner breathing environment aboard spacecraft and space habitats. Crews will have to be self-sustainable relying less on cargo missions packed with food, fuel, and supplies from Earth.

Expedition 70 Flight Engineers Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara

Expedition 70 Flight Engineers (from left) Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, both from NASA, pose for a portrait inside the Destiny laboratory module following the successful docking of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Andreas Mogensen from ESA (European Space AgencyThe European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration and study of space. ESA was established in 1975 and has 22 member states, with its headquarters located in Paris, France. ESA is responsible for the development and coordination of Europe's space activities, including the design, construction, and launch of spacecraft and satellites for scientific research and Earth observation. Some of ESA's flagship missions have included the Rosetta mission to study a comet, the Gaia mission to create a 3D map of the Milky Way, and the ExoMars mission to search for evidence of past or present life on Mars.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>European Space Agency) took turns servicing the Advanced Plant Habitat replacing environmental control components on the research device. NASA Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli assisted the duo in reconfiguring the botany facility that has grown a variety of vegetables in the Kibo laboratory module.

Vision Studies

O’Hara and Moghbeli then joined Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa from JAXAFormed in 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was born through the merger of three institutions, namely the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). JAXA performs various activities related to aerospace, from basic research in the aerospace field to development and utilization and is responsible for research, technology development, and launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) for eye checks that are part of the CIPHER suite of 14 human research experiments. O’Hara first measured the electrical response of Furukawa’s retinas to light using specialized sensors. Next, O’Hara used standard medical imaging hardware to view the optic nerves and retinas inside Moghbeli’s eyes. Investigators are exploring how weightlessness affects vision and the condition of the eye.

Snow Drifts in Karakoram Mountain Range From ISS

Snow drifts through the Karakoram mountain range as low-hanging clouds blend into the snow-capped summits of mountains as the International Space Station soared 259 miles above Pakistan. Credit: NASA

Bioprinting in Space

Mogensen wrapped up his day in the Columbus laboratory module printing cardiac tissue samples using the BioFabrication Facility (BFF). Moghbeli helped the ESA station commander insert tissue cassettes inside the 3D bioprinter and photograph the research activities. The BFF is demonstrating the potential of manufacturing human organs in space from existing patient cells.

Space Biology

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Konstantin Borisov joined each other Thursday morning checking and photographing eggs being incubated for a RoscosmosRoscosmos, also known as the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, is the Russian government agency responsible for space activities, including the development and operation of spacecraft, launch vehicles, and space stations. It was formed in 2015 through the merger of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the United Rocket and Space Corporation. Roscosmos is responsible for Russia's space program and works closely with other international space agencies on joint projects, such as the International Space Station. The agency is also involved in a wide range of space-related activities, including scientific research, earth observation, telecommunications, and manned spaceflight.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>Roscosmos biology investigation. Kononenko then studied ways to improve communication between international crews and mission controllers from around the world. Borisov wore a cap packed with sensors and researched futuristic spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub continued unpacking the Progress 86 cargo craft and then tested power supply components inside the Zarya module.

Source: SciTechDaily