Today’s Space Science Seeks Therapies for Aging, Muscle Conditions

Today’s Space Science Seeks Therapies for Aging, Muscle Conditions

The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy
The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy gathers for a portrait. In the front row from left are, NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. In the back are, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, Roscosmos cosmonaut and station commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Christina Koch.

Three Expedition 60 crewmembers finalized four days in a row of rodent research aboard the International Space Station this week. Meanwhile, more space science is underway as the orbiting lab residents prepare to swap crews.

Astronauts living in space have shown signs of accelerated aging and scientists are looking to understand why. The crew has spent all week observing mice aboard the station since they show similar physiological changes in microgravity. Scientists are hoping results from the rodent study may provide insights and therapies for aging conditions and muscle diseases to promote healthier humans on Earth and in space.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan conducted the rodent research this week with assistance from ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. The trio performed the biological research using the Life Sciences Glovebox installed inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA set up fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module throughout Thursday. The new science gear will support the Ring Sheared Drop experiment to understand how fluids flow in the human body and other materials. Observations may lead to a deeper understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and improved production of advanced materials.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin is still gathering items he will pack inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for his return home in a couple of weeks. He and Hague will soar back to Earth inside the Soyuz crew ship and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on Oct. 3.

Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori will hitch a ride back to Earth with Hague and Ovchinin after he launches to the station next week. He will join Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft when it launches on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. EDT. The trio will dock to the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m. the same day.

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Mark Garcia

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Crews Preparing to Trade Places During Biomedical Science on Station

Crews Preparing to Trade Places During Biomedical Science on Station

(From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka and Jessica Meir review their flight plan with training instructors. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

Two Expedition 60 crewmembers are moving ahead with departure preparations as the rest of their crewmates focused diligently on space biology research today. Back on Earth, three upcoming International Space Station residents are making final preparations before their launch next week.

Station Commander Alexey Ovchinin is collecting personal items and station cargo that he and Flight Engineer Nick Hague will take home inside their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo have been in space since March and are counting down to an Oct. 3 landing in Kazakhstan after 203 days in space. They will parachute to Earth with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori who will arrive at the orbiting lab next week for an eight-day stay.

New Expedition 61 crewmates Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will liftoff Sept. 25 with Almansoori aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. They will dock their Soyuz crew ship to the Zvezda service module’s rear port after a near six-hour, four-orbit ride in space.

The trio stepped outside the Cosmonaut Hotel today at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome for traditional tree-planting ceremonies and media activities. Meir and Skripochka will stay in space until April of 2020 and return to Earth with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan.

Vital biomedical research to support astronauts in space and improve health on Earth is keeping the crew busy all week aboard the orbiting lab. Once again, Morgan and fellow astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano are exploring how microgravity causes cellular and molecular changes in mice. Experimental results may provide doctors with therapeutic insights into aging and muscle ailments in humans.

Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos inspected the Zarya module for microbes today. The veteran cosmonaut photographed and swabbed several spots in the Russian segment today and stowed the samples for analysis.

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Mark Garcia

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Crews Prepare for Swap as Space Research Benefits Humans

Crews Prepare for Swap as Space Research Benefits Humans

The six-member Expedition 60 crew is gathered together for dinner
The six-member Expedition 60 crew is gathered together for dinner inside the galley of the Zvezda service module.

The six residents aboard the International Space Station continued more biomedical science and rodent research to improve human health on Earth and in space. The Expedition 60 crew is also gearing up for a crew swap beginning next week.

NASA Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Nick Hague started Tuesday drawing their blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge. The samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis to help scientists understand how astronauts adapt to microgravity.

Koch then spent the rest of the day with crewmates Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) observing space-caused cellular and molecular changes in mice. The rodents’ genetic similarity to humans may provide therapeutic insights into aging and muscle ailments.

Hague is getting ready to return to Earth on Oct. 3 after 203 days in space. He and Commander Alexey Ovchinin are packing gear and familiarizing themselves with the landing procedures they will use inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will return to Earth with a new crewmember, Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, who will arrive at the orbiting lab next week for an eight-day stay.

Almansoori, from the United Arab Emirates, is joining NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka for a launch to the station on Sept. 25. The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft from Kazakhstan for a five-hour and 48-minute ride to the aft-end of the Zvezda service module where they will dock. Meir and Skripochka will stay in space until April of 2020 and return to Earth with Morgan.

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Mark Garcia

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Space Biology, Brad Pitt Interview as New Crew Preps for Launch

Space Biology, Brad Pitt Interview as New Crew Preps for Launch

Astronaut Nick Hague and actor Brad Pitt
Actor Brad Pitt called up to to the International Space Station today and had a conversation with NASA astronaut Nick Hague. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 60 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station began the workweek exploring how microgravity affects a variety of biological systems. Back on Earth, three new crewmates are in final preparations for next week’s launch to the orbiting lab from Kazakhstan.

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan started Monday morning collecting and stowing their blood and urine samples for later analysis. Afterward, the pair joined fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for body mass measurements using a device that applies a known force on a crewmember. The resulting acceleration is used to accurately calculate an astronaut’s mass.

Hague spoke to actor Brad Pitt today who called up to the station from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. They talked about Pitt’s upcoming movie and discussed what it is like to live in space.

Koch also assisted ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano with a bioelectrical sensor that measures changes in body composition to determine the effectiveness of space nutrition. The duo, along with Morgan, then turned to rodent research the rest of the day for insights into aging and disease therapies.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin collaborated with fellow cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for cardiology research during an exercise session Monday morning. The commander then inspected hardware inside the Electromagnetic Levitator that enables the safe research of materials exposed to high temperatures. Skvortsov moved onto ventilation maintenance in the Zvezda service module. The duo wrapped up the day with an Earth photography session.

The next crew to launch to the station is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final mission training. Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will blast off on Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio from the U.S., Russia and the U.A.E. will take a four-orbit, near six-hour ride in space before docking to the aft port of Zvezda.

Almansoori will return to Earth on Oct. 3 aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft with Hague and Ovchinin. Meir and Skripochka will orbit Earth until the spring of 2020.

Ground personnel are fueling the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and integrating the spacecraft to its launch vehicle this week. The rocket with the Soyuz on top will roll out to its launch pad early in the morning on Sept. 23.

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Mark Garcia

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Biological, Materials Sciences and Inspiration Reign Supreme at End of Workweek

Biological, Materials Sciences and Inspiration Reign Supreme at End of Workweek

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA
Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA conducts research for a protein crystal growth experiment in the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). The research investigates the production of antibody therapies with a longer shelf-life to benefit humans on Earth and in space. Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 60 devoted their Friday to working on groundbreaking scientific research aboard the International Space Station, as well as inspiring the Artemis generation during a downlink hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation. 

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan of NASA took the mantle of fielding selected questions from 39 middle school classrooms nationwide during the space-to-Earth call at 10:55 a.m. EDT. The downlink, hosted by the National STEM Cell Foundation at the Kentucky Science Center, allowed classes that are part of the National STEM Scholar Program to get a firsthand look at what it’s like to live and work in microgravity, with the crewmates providing anecdotes from their time in space. 

Hague and Morgan, along with NASA astronaut Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano of (European Space Agency), further investigated the effects of spaceflight on rodent residents with Rodent Research-17, evaluating the changes caused by microgravity to their immunity, cells, bones and musculature. These findings will bolster discoveries for new therapies — both in space and back on Earth. 

Koch also performed experiment maintenance, installing a sample cartridge into the Cryo Chiller within an Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) locker. This unique chiller provides rapid freezing capability in support of biological sciences, as well as temperature-controlled transfer to and from the space station on visiting vehicles. 

Hague and Koch captured cinematic recordings of Morgan working on the Microgravity Crystals experiment for ISS Experience, a virtual reality series will educate to Earth audiences on what Expedition crew members do each day in support of operations and research. The experiment will illustrate how microgravity can be helpful in learning about diseases on Earth through the crystallization of a membrane protein integral to tumor growth and cancer survival. While the crystallization of this protein has yielded unsatisfactory results in gravity, Microgravity Crystals leverages the absence of gravity for extensive protein crystallization work onboard, significantly increasing the likelihood of successful crystal growth. Forthcoming results may support the development of cancer treatments that target the protein more effectively, and with fewer side effects. 

Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos joined his American teammates in conducting routine eye ultrasounds. Since long-duration space missions have been shown to cause severe and lasting physical damage to some astronauts’ eyes, continued monitoring of eye health is necessary to mitigate any noticeable effects for the crew. 

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Catherine Williams

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