Science

NASA Biology Experiments Launching Into Space

NASA Biology experiments developed at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley are set to launch to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s upcoming commercial resupply mission.

NASA Biology Experiments
Interior view of an incubator cassette from the Bioculture System. Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart

The resupply mission is targeted to occur around December 15 from Cape Canaveral in Florida and will carry experiments with important implications for muscle wasting, plant growth in low gravity, and learning about the microorganisms inhabiting the space station. This new research may serve to help us better understand how spaceflight factors affect human health during long voyages.

There are apparently four separate NASA biology experiments, but all share the goal of moving humanity further into the solar system than has previously been possible. With new knowledge about how humans react to long voyages, we can deeper probe the limits of our universe.

The four NASA biology experiments are the Bioculture System, Rodent Research-6, Plant Gravity Perception, and Microbial Tracking-2

Bioculture System

The Bioculture System is designed to teach us how life in space impacts human health. By studying cells grown in the weightless environment of the International Space Station, scientists will be able to carry out long-term cell biology studies on a wide variety of cell and tissue types. The new equipment in the biology experiment will allow for real-time monitoring of cultures, as well as a more sophisticated control over the conditions that the cells are exposed to. This significant addition to the space station will lead to knowledge about the effects of outer space on physiology and kickstart research into improving our ability to reach deeper into space.

Rodent Research-6

The second of the NASA Biology Experiments is Rodent Research-6. This study of rats will study a new drug delivery device that is capable of delivering continuous, low doses of medication that could help counteract muscle wasting — a major concern of long manned space journeys. A tiny capsule underneath the skin delivers a drug called formoterol, which is a common therapy in asthma inhalers and lung disease that can potentially address the issues of muscle deterioration in space.

Plant Gravity Perception

Plant Gravity Perception, the third of the NASA biology experiments, is designed to discover the lowest level of gravity that a plant seedling can recognize. A centrifuge system will simulate a range of gravity levels and will help scientists develop special plants that are capable of growth on long-duration space missions. These plants will be much hardier than current versions of the plants, which has implications for agriculture here on earth as well.

Microbial Tracking-2

The last of the NASA biology experiments is Microbial Tracking-2. As an experiment spanning many months, Microbial Tracking-2 is intended to track populations of microbes that live in the International Space Station alongside the astronauts. These microbes are the same ones that live on Earth, and they’ve initially arrived on cargo resupplying the station, or with astronauts during a crew change. This research will serve to show how microorganisms affect both the health of astronauts as well as the performance of the spacecraft.

These four NASA biology experiments launching into space could be the key to unlocking the secrets of longer space travel. While it may be a while before we go much deeper into our galaxy, the potential is likely there just waiting to be discovered.