KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), April 26, 2021 – Early Friday morning, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission launched four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A. After a successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket into low Earth orbit, the SpaceX Crew Dragon trailed the orbiting laboratory until Saturday morning, when the spacecraft successfully docked. On this mission, the second under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet joined the other members of the ISS Expedition 65 crew.
The four Crew-2 astronauts will commence a six-month mission on the space station, with much of their time being dedicated toward supporting research investigations that will help push the limits of science and technological innovation in ways not possible on Earth. Over the coming months, through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, multiple missions will launch to the ISS carrying a wide variety of experiments spanning diverse research disciplines. The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring dozens of these investigations, with the goal of bringing value to our nation through space-based inquiry and enabling a sustainable market in low Earth orbit.
Below highlights some of the many ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations that will be conducted by the Expedition 65 crew.
Multiple government agencies have been key collaborators in supporting both fundamental and applied research leveraging the ISS National Lab. This Expedition 65 crew rotation includes work on several tissue engineering and regenerative medicine investigations supported by other government agencies. Through a partnership with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, one of the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health, multiple Tissue Chips in Space investigations will leverage microgravity conditions for disease modeling that otherwise might take years to replicate on Earth—all with the intention of developing more effective therapeutics and improving quality of life for patients. Additionally, the National Science Foundation will launch the first of a series of investigations focused specifically on tissue engineering, with the goal of advancing fundamental knowledge through microgravity inquiry leading to applied research and development in space that benefits life on Earth.
Recognizable private-sector teams will also be launching ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations to the orbiting laboratory in the summer of 2021, including multiple Fortune 500 biomedical companies such as Eli Lilly and Company. Lilly, which has a history of sending research and development investigations to station, will be launching a lyophilization experiment to examine the effects of gravity on the physical state and properties of freeze-dried pharmaceutical products. Results could help Lilly improve the chemical and physical stability of pharmaceutical products for patients on Earth.
Additionally, Colgate-Palmolive intends to launch the first private-sector oral health care investigation to the ISS. This investigation will use a microfluidic device, developed by faculty in the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in collaboration with oral microbiologists from Colgate-Palmolive and a payload specialist team from Teledyne Brown Engineering. The project aims to identify the molecular characteristics of a healthy and diseased oral microbiome (a microbial community composed of different bacterial species) by cultivating oral bacterial biofilms growing on an enamel-type surface. The research team will study unique plaque pathologies in relation to oral health status, examine gravity’s effects on biofilm formation and oral dysbiosis (an imbalance in the oral microbial community), and compare responses to common oral care agents in an effort to create more effective products for consumers on Earth.
Also slated for launch is a cotton sustainability investigation sponsored by the Target Corporation in partnership with the ISS National Lab. Each year, 25 million metric tons of cotton are grown around the world, and each kilogram requires thousands of liters of water to transform from seed to textile. Through the ISS Cotton Sustainability Challenge, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, which manages the ISS National Lab, partnered with Target Corporation to generate ideas on how the space station could be leveraged to improve the use of natural resources such as water for sustainable cotton production on Earth. A project from the University of Wisconsin-Madison awarded through the challenge and funded by Target will launch to the ISS to examine the response of cotton plants to the stress of microgravity and the resulting effects on growth and root behavior. Results could eventually lead to the development of cotton plants that use water more efficiently.
A variety of ISS National Lab education projects will also launch to station during Expedition 65. One of these payloads comes from the Genes in Space program, which holds an annual research competition in which students in grades 7-12 propose pioneering DNA experiments that use the unique environment of the ISS. The program, founded by Boeing and miniPCR bio and supported by the ISS National Lab, has engaged thousands of students in proposing space-based research concepts, and this will mark the eighth Genes in Space student project to launch to the orbiting laboratory.
This is a small snapshot of the more than 50 payloads sponsored by the ISS National Lab currently scheduled to launch to the space station in the coming months. Additional information on all ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads will be provided as NASA Commercial Resupply Services missions near. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, including current research announcements to propose concepts that leverage the orbiting platform, please visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.
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About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.
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