Category Archives: micro-g R&D

High school team sends experiment to the International Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft recently berthed to the International Space Station and delivered over a ton of scientific experiments, including many student projects. (See NASA articles here and here.) Student groups can participate in ISS science via programs such as these:

Here is an example of a high school team in Singapore sending an experiment to the ISS:

Singapore American School (SAS) sends Singapore’s first experiment
to the International Space Station

SINGAPORE, June 5, 2017 — On Sunday, June 4, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 successfully lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, United States, and sent the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft was carrying an experiment built by students at the Singapore American School (SAS) — the first ever experiment to be sent to space by high schoolers in Singapore.

The MicroLab — a container that encases a scientific experiment — is scheduled to arrive on the International Space Station (ISS) after two days of spaceflight. This is the first time a Singaporean experiment will be installed by astronauts on board the ISS.

For over a year, student leader Sunita Srivatsan and her team of five — Jaclyn Chan, Keshav Jagannath, Annie Kim, Madeline Smith, and Devansh Tandon, guided by SAS Robotics coaches Meredith White and Bart Millar — have been meticulously planning, collaborating, and researching to set up an experiment to study the effects of microgravity on mutations in bacteria.

As part of the Bhattacharya Space Enterprise program and under the mentorship of ex-National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist Dr. Bidushi Bhattacharya, CEO and founder of Bhattacharya Space Enterprises and Priyadarshini Majumdar, a National University of Singapore graduate, the students learned about both the research and commercial aspects of space technology.

“This is a very exciting time for commercial spacetech growth, thanks to companies such as SpaceX. Traditionally, space-related career paths were feasible for students from larger nations, but rapid privatization and miniaturization of electronics has made space accessible globally. I am really excited about this group of students in Singapore who are actually delivering something into orbit,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.

Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent of SAS, who is a strong advocate of exploring interests and pursuing passions said,

“Backed by a culture of possibilities, students at SAS are offered every opportunity to dive deep into an area of interest while building competence and self-efficacy to engage and impact the world around them. It has to be one of the most exciting things in the world to be able to take the science they’re learning and applying it to a new frontier.”

The SAS Foundation, an organization that continues to strengthen the school for the future by funding educational programs, operations, and capital initiatives, has been a strong supporter of this project. The organization paid for mentor training in San Jose, biological and mechanical materials to create the experiment, orbital launch services on the Falcon 9 spacecraft, and leased space aboard the ISS.

Majumdar was instrumental in encouraging the team to focus on the various stages of the mission, formulate a plan and execute it. In six months time, the students went from finding it hard to visualize how everything would fit into a MicroLab to building the engineering model and constructing the flight model in about a week.

The MicroLab will test radiation levels in space using melanin genes implanted in E. coli bacteria. Once the rocket’s capsule docks at the ISS, astronauts will offload the MicroLab and plug it into a rack that provides the power needed to run the experiment in a microgravity environment. Driven by a circuit board and computer programme that the students designed, the experiment will run for one month.

Periodically, astronauts will download data and photos back to earth so the students can collect, analyze, and monitor their experiment. The students will also be conducting their ground truth (control) experiments here at the school after the experiment is returned to them post-flight. If the team’s hypothesis is proven true, NASA will genetically modify plants to produce more melanin to make growing plants in the conditions of space easier.

“The main purpose of this experiment is to make space technology development a tangible career option for students. Young people across Singapore see this project as something that has been built by kids their age, handed off to NASA and managed by astronauts for them. We are hoping to take this to other schools in Singapore in the coming years,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.

According to Sunita Srivatsan, SAS senior and team leader for the project,

“It’s not often that high schoolers get an opportunity of this magnitude, and we’re grateful to the SAS community, the SAS Foundation, and to our coaches and mentors. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but the idea that our experiment could potentially impact the future of space research, kept us focused in the face of roadblocks and challenges.”

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Here is a video about the science that went to the station:

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Video: Watch a colorful water drop in weightlessness in 4K super-hi-def

You can take advantage of your 4K esolution TV by streaming this short 4K video from the Int. Space Station showing a

Once again, astronauts on the International Space Station dissolved an effervescent tablet in a floating ball of water, and captured images using a camera capable of recording four times the resolution of normal high-definition cameras. The higher resolution images and higher frame rate videos can reveal more information when used on science investigations, giving researchers a valuable new tool aboard the space station. This footage is one of the first of its kind. The cameras are being evaluated for capturing science data and vehicle operations by engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

More from the caption:

Read more on 4K in space: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sta…

*To view in 4k, be sure to change resolution under “Settings” menu in YouTube viewer to “2160p 4k”.
(Video: NASA)

HD download: https://archive.org/details/NASA-Ultr…

Video: Growing better protein crystals in microgravity

Below is a NASA video and article about protein growth in microgravity. (Note that a Schering Plough protein crystal experiment carried out on Shuttle Columbia’s last flight led directly to a treatment for Hepatitis-C: Space KSC: I’m a Doctor, Not an Astronaut – Space KSC) :

ISS Benefits For Humanity: Hope Crystallizes

In one of many direct Earth applications of International Space Station research, the newest Benefits for Humanity video in the Benefits series highlights how high-quality crystals grown in microgravity lead to new therapeutics for disease. Learn how the investigation of protein crystals in space is helping to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), an incurable genetic disorder affecting the muscles with onset usually in early childhood and primarily in young males.

Research into a disease like DMD involves the study of the structure of associated proteins by crystallization, which helps researchers better understand protein function. This comprises making millions of copies of that protein and arranging them in three-dimensional rows. Crystals grown on Earth are impacted by gravity, which may affect the way the molecules align on the surface of the crystal. Researchers have discovered that growing crystals aboard the space station allows for slower growth and higher quality crystals.

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In microgravity, crystals grow more slowly, but the molecules have time to more perfectly align on the surface of the crystal which returns much better research data. Credits: NASA

Since 2003, scientists with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have conducted protein crystal growth investigations on the space station, including proteins associated with DMD. Having a better understanding of the protein’s shape enabled researchers to design a drug that fits specifically into a location on the protein associated with DMD. The research team estimates that the drug may be able to slow the progression of DMD by half.

“Studying this protein led to a huge discovery,” said Dr. Yoshihiro Urade, Ph.D., professor at the University of Tsukuba in Tsukuba, Japan. “What we’re talking about is potentially doubling the lifespan of many DMD patients, and it’s all because of research opportunities afforded to us by the International Space Station.”

With many other protein crystal growth studies occurring or planned aboard the space station, many thousands of other proteins’ structures could be determined. This is yet another way the orbiting laboratory is enabling research Off the Earth, For the Earth

Video: The effects of weightlessness on vision

Here’s a new video in a NASA series about research on the Int. Space Station. This entry focuses, so to speak, on the effects of weightlessness on human vision:

From the caption:

Every month on StationLIFE, we’ll focus on a scientific area where the International Space Station is conducting groundbreaking research. This month, astronaut Tracy Dyson talks about a unique challenge to humans flying in space: vision impairment.

Even after 50 years of human spaceflight, we are still exploring the effects microgravity can have on human health. In recent years, a new trend was identified: some International Space Station astronauts reported vision degradation during spaceflight. Research has identified a possible link between vision impairment and the increased intracranial pressure caused by shifts in bodily fluids from the lower extremities to the upper part of the body in microgravity. This is an area of intense interest aboard ISS, with implications for future exploration missions.

There is also an Earth benefit to the vision research aboard the space station; these studies provide insight into structural changes that can occur in the eyes and nervous system, which could be relevant for patients suffering from a wide range of ocular diseases such as glaucoma. It also provides data that could be used to help patients suffering from brain diseases, such as hydrocephalus and high blood pressure in the brain.