NASA released the details of some of the scientific investigations travelling to the space station on a resupply mission next month.
American space agency NASA is planning to launch the next resupply services mission to the International Space Station (ISS) next month. The Cygnus spacecraft carrying scientific investigations of topics such as plant mutations and mudflow structure is scheduled for liftoff no earlier than November 6 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, US.
On Saturday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration released the details of some of the scientific investigations travelling to the space station on this mission. As per a press release, these investigations will include bioprinting tissues, assessing how plants adapt to space, mudflow mixtures and ovarian cell development in microgravity. It will also comprise the demonstration of camera technology and small satellites from Japan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Explaining the bioprinting tissues, the US space agency said that it will launch its BioFabrication Facility (BFF) that successfully printed a partial human knee meniscus and a large volume of human heart cells during its trip to space in 2019. The technology is being re-flown to space with new capabilities to further human tissue printing research. The payload is returning to space to test whether microgravity enables the printing of tissue samples of higher quality than those printed on the ground.
“The research being conducted with BFF has exciting implications for the future of human health,” said Redwire executive vice president of In-Space Manufacturing and Operations John Vellinger.
“Besides providing a clear benefit to our lives on Earth, advancing this technology on the International Space Station now is a great way to prepare for work on the commercial space stations of the future, which could be outfitted with critical research technology such as BFF,” he added.
NASA will also conduct a study on growing plants in space. As per the press release, the Plant Habitat-03 will assess whether adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation. NASA explained that the long-term goal of this investigation is to understand how epigenetics can contribute to adaptive strategies plants use in space, and ultimately, to develop plants better suited for use on future missions to provide food and other services.
Further, the space agency will also investigate mudflow mixtures. Scientists will be shedding light on climate change and global warming through the Post-Wildfire Mudflow Micro-Structure, which aims to study the thin layer of soil which is created after a wildfire burns a plant and repels rainwater.
“Gravity plays a crucial role in the process by driving air up and out of the mixture and particles down to the bottom of the water. Removing gravity, therefore, could provide insights into the internal structure dynamics of these sand-water-air mixtures and a baseline for their behaviour,” said Ingrid Tomac, an assistant professor in the University of California San Diego’s Structural Engineering Department.
Further, scientists in space will also be examining the effect of microgravity on bovine cell cultures – research that NASA believes could improve fertility treatments on Earth and help prepare for future human settlement in space.